Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Poland Warns about the Holocaust. Another Heartbreaking Historical Document.

General Władysław Eugeniusz Sikorski and Winston Churchill
Migration Museum Project
Michal Karski writes:

"The Polish wartime government in exile has recently come in for the kind of attack which was common currency in the days when Stalin was doing his utmost to discredit the Poles, in other words, it is being described as essentially a clique of reactionaries and anti-Semites. A British historian who shall remain nameless - (I don’t particularly want to publicize the book he is promoting for him) - has chosen to paint General Sikorski and co in the most negative colours in a few British publications.

"Critics might like to note that this same Polish government was responsible for trying to bring to the attention of the world the plight of Polish Jews and others from all parts of Europe. A booklet was issued and publicized in which Nazi atrocities taking place on Polish soil were described. The date of publication is notable since the information was made public far earlier than is commonly supposed in the Western World: December 1942. Why was so little done in response?  Perhaps the historians who are so quick to criticise the Polish government might like to offer some explanations of their own."

Michal is too courteous to name the offending publication that is slandering General Sikorski, but it is The Scotsman. Its slanders, AFAIK, have not made an impression outside of the UK; if I am wrong, please correct me.

If you want to read The Scotsman's slanders, or if you want to read attempts to correct them, you can read more here and here.

And of course you should read "Bieganski," here.

Below please find the historical document Michal refers to, above. This is just one of many attempts by Poles to alert the Allies to what was transpiring in Poland.

Click on the image for a larger version, or view the document on the web here. Thanks to Otto for help with this blog.

Anti-Semitic Mural in Muslim Neighborhood in London

This is old news -- from 2012 -- but given how much anti-Semitism is in the news in England, I mention it now. 

A Muslim neighborhood in London was home to an anti-Semitic mural right out of the Nazi playbook. 

You can read  more about his hideous mural here

You can read more about the anti-Semitism scandal in England any number of places; it is all over the news right now. Just one article is here

A Facebook friend shared this attempt to address the situation with humor.

The Word "Jew" Is an Insult in English, Says Susan Sommercamp in the Washington Post

Why does the word for a person of my religion sound like a slur? asks Susan Sommercamp in the Washington Post. 

"Polak" of course is the word for my ethnicity and it *is* a slur. 

"Jesus Christ" is the name of my teacher and savior and it is a curse word. 

Funny how these things work. 


My first boss right out of college was terrific — ambitious, warm and open to friendly lunches outside the office.

Then one day in December, the topic turned to her plans for Christmas.

She asked where I would be celebrating the holiday, and I said, “Oh, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m a Jew.” She gaped.

I wasn’t expecting her response: “Why would you say something so derogatory about yourself?”


She whispered, “You called yourself a Jew. That’s an awful word to use. It’s like saying n—–.”

“No, it’s not. I’m just saying that I’m Jewish.”

“They’re not the same. ‘Jewish’ is fine. ‘Jew’ is not. Really, I’m surprised you just said it out loud at work.”

Read more here

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Selling Nazism Was Hard Work. Julius Streicher Nazi Editor of Der Sturmer: A Review

Peter Sean Bradley is a Catholic lawyer who reviews many Nazi-related books on Amazon.

He has noticed how treatment of Nazism has changed.

"When I compare texts from the 1930s, I read about everything that is going on, the oppression of socialists and Catholics and Protestants and Jews. But when I read modern accounts, all that disappears and the only thing I read is about the persecution of the Jews. Naturally, with that kind of focus, one concludes that the Germans must have been brimming with one hatred and one hatred only, namely anti-Semitic.

Likewise, you find in the texts of the time, more concern about economic conditions and the fact that German territory was occupied than anti-Semitism. All of the other stuff disappears today, however, and what is taught is that the Nazis were merely anti-Semites. Then we say, well, we are not anti-Semites, so we are OK."

His review talks about how hard it was for Nazis to sell Nazism, and about how much propaganda effort and manipulation of the public went into this effort. The review also talks about similarities between social media and Nazi propaganda, and whether or not it is ethical to hang a man for what he has said. This is no mere academic question -- in 2003, Rwandan radio journalists were jailed for genocide. They were jailed for broadcasts, rather than for actually killing anyone. 


I started this book with low expectations. How interesting could a book be about the most “unpleasant” of the Nazis? How much of value could there be in reading the biography of a person who retailed the worst, most banal, most ridiculous of Jew-baiting libels to incite hatred among the gullible and stupid? I knew that Julius Streicher was the most notorious Jew-baiter in Nazi Germany through his newspaper, Der Sturmer, and that he was executed at Nuremberg, which was enough information to make me want to keep a wide berth from reading about him.

The nice thing about low expectations is that it is so easy to be surprised. This book is positively first-rate. It provides a perspective on the society of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s that is invaluable, and it runs counter to a lot of the canards about a hopelessly anti-semitic culture that was, we are told by modern historians, naturally trending toward hateful bigotry. What I took away from this book was the amount of effort it took to create the culture of Nazi antisemitism. It didn’t happen naturally. The preconditions were there, but it took huge amounts of propaganda and social conditioning to teach Germans that they had to stop caring for their Jewish friends and neighbors.

The author is Randall Bytwerk. One of the interesting discoveries I made is that Bytwerk is responsible for the “German Propaganda Archive at calvin.edu. I’ve used that source on numerous occasions as a resource for German propaganda but I did not make the connection. It makes sense, though, that a professor with an interest in propaganda would also be an expert on this loathsome character who played such a role in propaganda. Bytwerk observes that “the Internet also makes it possible to provide a virtual appendix to this book. In 1996 I established the German Propaganda Archive a large collection of translations of Nazi and East German propaganda. My goal is to make available, in English, the original materials of the two German dictatorships of the twentieth century. The site includes translations from the Stürmer and other products of Streicher’s publishing house.”

Welcome to the 21st century.

Bytwerk has no sympathy for Streicher. He constantly describes Streicher as unpleasant and rather stupid and boring in his obsession. Apparently, even Hitler could tire of Streicher’s one-note conversations topic; Der Furher would sneak into Nuremberg, where Streicher was Gauleiter, in order to avoid having to have dinner with Streicher. Nonetheless, Hitler was a Streicher supporter and Streicher was a significant supporter of Hitler and the Nazis from an early time when his newspaper, Der Sturmer, was a major source of revenues for the Nazi movement.

Streicher came out of the right wing movement. He seems to have moved gradually into the Volkisch movement as a result of his unpleasant personality and his inability to cooperate with party members in less radical parties. Streicher was from Nuremberg. Nuremberg was a Protestant enclave in Catholic Bavaria, but Streicher was a Catholic citizen of mostly Protestant Nuremberg. Bytwerk does not discuss Streicher’s religious history – for example, Bytwerk does not mention Streicher’s public apostasy in the 1930s, but he does mention, in passing, that a party that Streicher belonged to prior to the Nazis lost Catholic members when Streicher published an article attacking the Jesuits. Bytwerk also notes:

“As a teacher Streicher was expected to attend to the spiritual as well as to the intellectual development of his pupils. Particularly in the small towns in which he taught, the local priest often had supervisory authority over the schoolmaster. Now, Streicher was never to be a man who easily accepted interference in his affairs, and his childhood had not left him a loyal Catholic. In July 1904 he decided to change the time at which the Sunday school (for which the schoolmaster was also responsible) met, against the wishes of the parish priest.”

Streicher was a schoolteacher during the time that he was developing Der Sturmer and becoming a Nazi bigshot. One of the more nauseating outgrowths of Streicher’s career as a school teacher was his interest in poisoning the minds of German children with books that taught antisemitism to children. Likewise, Der Sturmer would run stories of children telling their parents not to shop at Jewish stores, much in the same way that children today might tell their parents to recycle or not smoke because their teachers had told them to.

The biggest impact that this book had on me was providing a sense of how important a role Der Sturmer played in the life of Nazi Germany. Der Sturmer was “social media” long before the concept was invented. Sturmer display cases were set up all over Germany. At this kiosks the pages of the Sturmer newspaper would be displayed so that passer-bys could get their fill of anti-Semitic propaganda. The Sturmer was a slim newspaper, fourteen pages or so, which allowed the complete paper to be read this way. The Sturmer display cases were maintained by fans of the Sturmer. These fans would write into the Sturmer to report on neighbors who were friendly to Jews. The sense I got was that this fan base might represent what we see on the websites of, say, Richard Dawkins or other internet celebrities, for whom the interaction through the comments is a major feature of their social life.

The contents of the Sturmer is described by Bytwerk as constantly changing information based on a constant theme – sounding again like an internet blog maintained by a celebrity. The theme was, of course, how awful Jews are, but Streicher had a gift for gossip and raking up new scandal in order to provide new material for his readers to be scandalized about.

In addition the Sturmer had a regular feature consisting of denunciations of Germans who were friendly to Jews or continued to patronize Jewish business. This resembles what we see today among “social justice warriors” who level secondary boycotts against businesses who support legislation they find reprehensible, or who, not so long ago, arranged to have a CEO fired from a corporation because he had made a donation in favor of traditional marriage. With that comparison, we may begin to realize the organized social sanction that the ordinary German was under – act like a decent human being and you might get your name featured in the Sturmer, after which you would be the one subject to isolation and retaliation.

Streicher used inventions and fabrications as part of his propaganda. For example, he spread blood libel stories that had been discredited centuries before. He also used the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a propaganda source. Streicher’s propaganda technique also included hammering the Jews with true stories about misconduct and crimes by Jews. Thus, any time a Jew was accused of being a rapist, this story was put into the Sturmer, which eventually led Germans to believe that there must be something to this “the Jews are rapists” meme. The technique involves conflating “facts” with “representative facts.” We see the same thing today with Catholic priests accused of child abuse. The facts are that Catholic priests are accused of child abuse at no higher rate than any other group, and that the priests accused are not representative of Catholic priests, but given the constant repetition of the theme of “pedophile priest,” most people believe that Catholic priests are somehow a threat in a special and unique way, much like Germans believed that Jews were criminals and/or rapists. Bytwerk explains:

“Moreover, many facts are not necessarily representative facts. A careful selection of information can lead an audience to a quite mistaken conclusion, even though none of the information is false. One can simply omit inconvenient facts, of course, but leaving that aside, it is easy to draw improper conclusions in other ways. For example, people greatly overestimate the incidence of disasters, murders, and diseases like cancer, and underestimate the occurrence of home accidents or diabetes. A plane crash or an earthquake gets front-page coverage and full play on the evening news, and cancer is the great evil of the day. Such vivid happenings are remembered, overshadowing less dramatic facts.

Julius Streicher’s ability to provide a profusion of facts suggesting that Jews were committing crimes on a startling scale was well suited for the modern media. His standards of evidence were, as we have seen, unimpressive, but some of what he accused Jews of doing was true. It did not matter to him and his readers that infractions committed by Jews were certainly not more numerous or even proportionally higher than crimes committed by “Aryans.” During the Weimar era his targets sometimes were convicted. And after 1933 convictions became almost predictable, for reasons perhaps not entirely evident to the average citizen. His material was not representative, but its vividness was farmore persuasive than a mere statistic.

On a lower level, given complete knowledge of the behavior and thoughts of any individual, one could construct a highly unflattering portrait, relying entirely on those facts that suggested the individual’s depravity. The ability to select is the ability to persuade. Streicher could present cases of Jewish evil with reasonable assurance that his readers would make the desired inductive leap from the given case to the general. If a large number of Jews seemed to be criminal, then all Jews probably were. Of course, the well-known human tendency to perceive selectively is also at work. One who expects to see Jews about evil deeds will find just that, overlooking consciously or not the more impressive evidence to the contrary. The anti-Semite who, in reading the Talmud, was struck only by the small number of passages he perceived as supporting his prejudices, was only following to a greater degree a mental and emotional process that everyone commonly practices.”

So, it would appear that a virtue of this book is to get us thinking about modern culture, where we can realize that we are not so special, or, perhaps, that the Germans of the 1930s resemble us in disturbing ways.

Bytwerk weighs into the claim raised by Daniel Goldhagen that the “ordinary German” was characterized by “eliminationist anti-Semitism” that would have led them to kill Jews had they had the opportunity.” Based on the data of the Sturmer, Bytwerk disagrees. Thus, Bytwerk points out that the Sturmer denunciations of Germans who were friendly to Jews increased through 1938, which suggests that many, many ordinary Germans were not anti-Semites, even in the face of great pressure to conform. Bytwerk explains:

“Surprisingly, the Stürmer sometimes carried the responses of such people. Some of the accused claimed that Jews provided better quality at lower prices. A farmer who took Jewish children for a cart ride asserted, “The government does not ask me where the money came from when I pay my taxes.” 7 To Stürmer readers, such comments emphasized stubborn refusal to relinquish contact with Jews. The criticized behavior sometimes displayed clear opposition to Nazi anti-Semitic policies, at other times only the person’s economic self-interest. Those denounced in the Stürmer might still have harbored anti-Semitic attitudes.

Still, the behavior is clearly not what one would expect of those holding eliminationist anti-Semitic views. This was particularly true by 1937, when Hitler had been in power for more than four years. Those who had thought that the Nazis were anti-Semites of the traditional variety had had sufficient time to learn otherwise. To shop at a Jewish store or to trade with a Jewish livestock dealer by 1937 took a conscious decision to ignore the considerable pressures of the state and society.”


“Some correspondents reported being insulted when they attempted to encourage people to avoid Jews. A 1938 letter gave the response of a woman in Silesia who, when reproached for buying in a Jewish shop, replied, “You’re drunk, aren’t you?” 11 A farmer criticized in 1939 for dealing with Jews responded bluntly, “Hang me from the church steeple if you want, but I’m not going to stop dealing with the Jews.” 12 Many letters noted that well-meaning attempts to dissuade citizens from dealing with Jews were simply ignored. Often they wrote, in apparent astonishment, that someone had conversed with a Jew “in broad daylight” or “in the fifth year of National Socialism” or visited a Jewish shop “on November 10, [1938]!”

There was clearly a great deal of anti-Semitism in German society, but there was a great deal of prejudice against every minority group in most countries of the period. Streicher was quite willing to engage in Catholic-baiting when the opportunity arose, but while this low-level bigotry provided the tinder, by itself, without the stoking of men like Streicher, it was not itself “eliminationist.” Bytwerk writes:

“When Goldhagen argues that most Germans were eliminationist anti-Semites, he overstates the case. Some Stürmer readers met his definition, but even most of them disliked Jews without giving evidence of wanting to kill them. Increasing numbers of villages announced themselves “free of Jews,” but readers who reported that fact did not seem concerned that their former Jewish neighbors, though relocated, were still alive. Those very readers provided evidence in their letters that they were not typical of the German population as a whole. In denouncing their decent and compassionate fellow citizens, they felt themselves members of a crusade that lacked universal support and predicted it would take a long time before they could win the struggle to remake all Germans to their anti-Semitic image. Hitler found his willing executioners— a number ample enough to slaughter millions— but he did not have the whole citizenry of Germany from which to choose.”

Streicher was kicked out of Nazi leadership by the mid to late 1930s, due to his own inability to get along with other Nazis and his own corruption. He did continue to publish the Sturmer, although as Jews either emigrated or deported, there was less material for his paper. In addition, during the war, the Sturmer operated under paper restrictions. The Sturmer’s heyday was over by the time the war started and its circulation was in substantial decline.

Because of his own incompetence, Streicher was never given the opportunity to directly participate in the Holocaust or in war crimes like the other old Nazis. Nonetheless, Streicher was hanged with them, refusing to apologize for his involvement and braying out his loyalty to Hitler in his last breath. I will shed no tears for this waste of human life, but I am not certain that Streicher should have been hanged. He was a miserable human being and he poisoned the minds of Germans, and he made the Holocaust possible with his propaganda, but, ultimately, weren’t his crimes a matter of speech and argument? Do we hang people for political ideas? If so, shouldn’t we be throwing Communists and racists in jail before they get political power?

This is a surprising, good book. Because of its focus on someone who turned out to be a minor actor, it was able to get deeper into the background of the period. I recommend it highly to those who are interested in political science or the dark arts of propaganda.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Massacres and Double Standards; Jews, Christians, Muslims and "Who Hit Whom First"

Vladimir Kush Pros and Cons
Massacres and Double Standards; Jews, Christians, Muslims and "Who Hit Whom First"

On April 26, 2016, FrontPage magazine published my review of Dario Fernandez-Morera's book The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain here.

The book is superb, a must-read.

A reader posting under the rather anonymous internet handle of "R Steinberg" used the review to slander me as an anti-Semite.

In the comments section under the article, R Steinberg wrote, "Goshka [sic], as far as I am concerned, is a soft anti-semite. Goshka fails to mention that the massacre of Christians in 614 was a reaction to decades of Byzantine Christian persecution of Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land; Jews understandably allied themselves with the Sassanid Persians in the latter's attempt to wrest Jerusalem from the Jews' Christian persecutors."

A subsequent post questioned whether this Jewish massacre of Christians even occurred. "Is there any positive historical proof of the 614 Jewish massacre of Christians in Yerushalem -- outside of Byzantine accounts?

R Steinberg responded, "I am only aware of Byzantine accounts, particularly that of the monk Antiochus Strategos, who, judging from his language, probably loathed Jews even before the massacre occurred."

In a further subsequent post, R Steinberg wrote "Her context-lacking reference to a massacre of Christians by Jew in the year 614, for example, seems gratuitous, as it occurred in Jerusalem (at the Mamilla pool or reservoir), not in the Iberian Peninsula, and a century before there were any Muslims in Spain."

According to historians, in 614, during the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, Jews massacred Christians at the Mamilla Pool. It is mentioned in the book I was reviewing. I mentioned it in my review for a very specific reason, that I stated quite clearly in my review, and that R Steinberg declined to respect.

Fernandez-Morera's book argues that elites today market a false image of Muslim Spain as a land of happy coexistence. In fact, Fernandez-Morera demonstrates, there was much strife in Muslim Spain, much of it based on conflicts between Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

I mentioned that there is one aspect of this myth that Fernandez-Morera did not dwell on. The world today is not the world of the eighth century. Today Christianity is the world's largest faith. America, a largely Christian nation, was the first to have nuclear weapons. European languages dominate five of the world's continents and a large percentage of the remaining continents. Up to the mid part of the twentieth century, Europeans, often Christians, colonized much of the globe.

We are, of course, in the post-Holocaust era, and we are used to thinking of Jews as completely powerless minorities, unable to forfend the murder of six million Jews.

None of this was true in the eighth century. Christians were killed just for being Christian in the eighth century, not just by Muslims, but by Pagans, as well. If you were a Pagan Slav in the eighth century, you didn't think of Jews as powerless, friendless victims of genocide. You thought of Jews as slave traders. Slavs were among the most typically enslaved people in Muslim Spain. Their enslavement included mass castration of males. These are neutral, historical facts. To know them is not an anti-Semitic hate crime. It's simply true.

When we think of Muslim Spain, we need to think, not of Christians as unquestionably powerful and dominant. They were not. Christians were often victims.

It's very hard for some people to think of Christians as victims. It's so hard it is almost taboo.

FrontPage magazine recently drew my attention to Paul Kivel, a man who makes his living demonizing Christianity as the source of "everything bad." You can read about him here and here. His website, "Challenging Christian Hegemony," is here.

Responsible voices have called the status of Christians in the Middle East today a "genocide." The world's response to this genocide is most often silence. One reason for that silence is that we have been brainwashed never to think of Christians as victims. We have been brainwashed to think of Christians as all-powerful victimizers.

The Leonard Lopate Show is a talk show on the NPR affiliate, WNYC, in New York.

Lopate is a very intelligent, well-informed man. He knows the world.

He recently interviewed Klaus Wivel about his book "The Last Supper: the Plight of Christians in Arab Lands."

I was stunned by this broadcast. Lopate began by asking, paraphrase, "Aren't you stirring up Islamophobia?" Lopate went on to suggest that Christians in the Middle East don't belong there – that they are all Crusaders who invaded. Of course Christianity originated in the Middle East and Christians there today are most often not descendants of Crusaders, but rather of early Christians. Even if they were descendants of Crusaders, they have been there longer than Lopate's ancestors, or mine, have been in the US. We don't deserve to be the targets of genocide, and neither do Christians in the Middle East.

Lopate implied that Christians brought their problems on themselves through their behavior – maybe they were too close to, or too distant from, the right center of power.

It was very hard to listen to. I didn't hear, from Lopate, the kind of concern that victims of genocide usually receive.

We should know about the Mamilla Pool massacre. We should know that Christians, too, have a history of being killed for who they are. Christians, too, have reason to be cautious when interacting with members of other faiths. Christians, too, have a history of pain and victimization that deserves respect. Christian lives matter.

As for who hit whom first. R Steinberg compared Christian behavior toward Jews with Jihadi behavior toward Christians, that is, "continuous predation and conquest." I don't think that this comparison is justifiable. I don't think that seventh-century Christians mounted a jihad against Jews that involved "continuous predation and conquest" comparable to the Muslim Conquest.

If you'd like to read about Jews' status in the Byzantine Empire, one place to start is the Wikipedia page dedicated to that topic, here.

In any case, R Steinberg's insistence that Christians' bad behavior toward Jews be mentioned in any mention of the Mamilla Pool massacre reminded me, of course, of Polish-Jewish relations.

On July 10, 1941, Polish Catholics massacred Jews in the small town of Jedwabne, Poland. The Jews were first terrorized and humiliated. Then they were burned to death in a barn. This is a horrific event.

A huge debate surrounds how people talk about this event.

I have seen accounts that tightly focus on Polish Catholics fiendishly torturing and murdering Jews. Period. End of story. Nothing else is mentioned. In these accounts, one explanation is offered: Polish Catholics are essentially sick, twisted, hateful people. There is something wrong with being Polish. There is something wrong with being Catholic. Catholicism must change. Polish people must be forever demonized and shunned. I detail such accounts in my book Bieganski.

There are other ways of telling the Jedwabne story, though.

Pull the camera back.

Pull the camera back a few feet, and you will see that this massacre occurred during the Nazi occupation of Poland. You will see Nazi soldiers surrounding the Poles.

Pull the camera back even further, and you will see more. Here is a cut and paste of the Wikipedia page addressing the history.

"As soon as the Soviets entered Jedwabne, the local Polish government was dismantled. At first, many Polish Jews were relieved to learn that the Soviets, rather than the Nazis, were to occupy their town, and unlike gentile Poles, publicly welcomed the Red Army as their protectors …

Administrative jobs were offered to Jews who declared Soviet allegiance. Some Jews joined a Soviet militia overseeing deportations of ethnic Poles organized by the NKVD.

At least one witness testimony says that during round-ups, armed Jewish militiamen were seen to be guarding those being prepared for deportation to Siberia. A total of 22,353 Poles (entire families) were deported from the vicinity. Red Army troops requisitioned food and other goods, undercutting nearly everyone's material needs … Waves of arrests, expulsions and prison executions continued until June 21, 1941."

The bottom line: Before the Nazis invaded, the Soviets invaded. The Soviets murdered, tortured, and deported Polish Catholics. Some-not-all Jews celebrated the arrival of the Soviets and the end of a very short lived Polish sovereignty. Poland, previous to WW I, had been a colonized, occupied country since the late eighteenth century. Poland's 1939 loss of sovereignty to Germany and Russia, its deadly enemies, that had struggled to erase it for over a hundred years, was a catastrophe for Poles. Some-not-all Jews participated in rounding up Polish Catholics for deportation to Siberia.

None of that backstory makes the Jedwabne massacre excusable. None of it exculpates the perpetrators. None of that comforts the victims.

Here's the point – understanding the Jedwabne massacre as an expression of an essentially hateful Polish essence – which many elite voices chose to do – is canon. That version of history appeared in major American publications and on campuses.

In my review of Fernandez-Morera's excellent book, I did not present the Mamilla Pool massacre as an expression of a Jewish essence. I made no attempt to present the full backstory of that massacre as that backstory is utterly extraneous to the key point – that Christians over a thousand years ago were not the Christians of today in America. They were just one religion in a mix of religions. They were vulnerable. They were sometimes killed for their faith, both individually and en masse. That vulnerability deserves our awareness.

There is, of course, a double standard at work. The Jedwabne massacre has a backstory. The Jedwabne massacre was not representational of any Polish essence. It was rather, an expression of hideous local and contemporary circumstances – occupation, terror, and the decapitation of society by both the Nazis and the Soviets, who made it their business immediately upon arrival to liquidate teachers, priests, and anyone else who might lead the people.

Anyone who mentions the Jedwabne massacre's backstory risks being called a bigot or an apologist who wants to avoid ethical consequences and the need to be mindful of antisemitism.

In the case of Jedwabne, mentioning the backstory has been condemned.

In the case of the Mamilla Pool massacre, one must mention the backstory. One must not put an emphasis on being sensitive to eighth century Christians awareness of their own vulnerability.

I reject this double standard.

If someone were to say to me, "Jews feel vulnerable because of events like Jedwabne," I want to hear and respect that message. I don't need to immediately adduce the entire backstory.

If someone says to me that Christians, too, have a history of being killed, individually or en masse solely because of their faith, I want to hear and respect that. And not need to vitiate the message. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, or, Do You Know about Your Enslaved Forebears?

This review appears at FrontPage magazine, here

This book is about Spain, but the interested reader will find matters of significance to the topics of this blog in this review.

To Sabotage the Future, Lie about the Past

Northwestern University Scholar Dario Fernandez-Morera Tilts at the Windmill of the Andalusian Myth – And the Myth Topples

I am in awe of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain. Author Dario Fernandez-Morera, a Northwestern University Professor and Harvard PhD, argues that elite scholars are peddling a myth – that Islamic Spain, c. 711 AD -1492 AD, was a paradise. Fernandez-Morera's job is to expose historical realities. The main text is 240 pages. There are 95 pages of notes, a bibliography and an index. It was published in February, 2016 by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

This book is an intellectual boxing match. The author shreds not just one opponent, but a series of intellectual bigots, prostitutes and manipulators of the common man. Fernandez-Morera's biceps gleam as his lightning footwork and peerless preparedness dazzle. Our hero risks much, from hate mail to non-person status.

The reader is plunged into vast landscapes, international intrigue, arcane customs, and timeless heroism. One envisions veiled women and bejeweled slave girls, the smoking ruins of churches, enslaved, whipped Christians forced to carry their cathedral bells to be melted down to embellish mosques, heartbreaking suffering and eventual victory.

Fernandez-Morera allows the propagandists enough rope to hang themselves. All he has to do is quote them. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, The University of Chicago, Boston University, Sarah Lawrence, Rutgers, Indiana University, Cambridge, Oxford, The University of London, NYU, Norton, Penguin, Routledge, Houghton Mifflin, the Pulitzer Committee, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Carly Fiorina, children's textbooks, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, PBS, The New York Review of Books, First Things all are in the dock, tripped up in their own false testimony. The inclusion of First Things might surprise; it is a Catholic publication. In it Christian C. Sahner praises Muslims who "exhibited a surprising degree of religious flexibility" because they waited a few decades before razing the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Damascus, rather than destroying it immediately upon arrival. Really.

What is the propagandists' motive?

Follow the pitchforks and torches. In 2008, Sylvain Gouguenheim, a French medievalist, published Aristotle at Mont Saint-Michel, arguing that the West is not in debt to Islam for awareness of Ancient Greek texts; most of those texts were preserved, translated, passed on and used by Christians. For that rather modest claim, Gouguenheim was subjected to an "academic exorcism."

And follow the agenda. The Middle Ages matter to propagandists for one reason only: today's projects. Al-Andalus proves that "Islam can effectively navigate a pluralistic world." Al-Andalus proves that there are no "essential differences" between Islam and the West. Al-Andalus proves that Israel can be replaced with a "Palestinian model in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims can live again under [Islam's] protection." And of course the Ground Zero Mosque was dubbed "Cordoba House" after a caliphate in Muslim Spain.

What tactics do the propagandists use in their publications?

They smear Christians. In one Oxford University Press book, Christians are "a fanatical fringe" resistant to "benefitting" from the great good fortune of living in Muslim Spain. How do the propagandists deal with the forty-eight Christian Martyrs of Cordoba? They mock them, pathologize them, and blame them for their own deaths. These dead were "troublemakers," "self-immolators," guilty of "extremism" for preferring death as Christians to life as Muslims. They were masochists who really wanted to be tortured and killed.

Pelagius was a young Christian boy desired by Abd-al-Rahman III. Pelagius, aka Pelayo, resisted. Islam's scholarly apologists don't condemn the caliph's desire to rape a child. They waste no time respecting the boy's pain – a pain that is representational of countless other kuffar boys raped, castrated, and killed, all in line with the rules of jihad. Rather they condemn Christians for "demonizing Muslims" and having hang-ups about man-boy sodomy. In this academic deflection, one hears echoes of the blame-the-victim response to the mass sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year's, 2016, or the 2015 order to US soldiers to ignore "boy play" in Afghanistan – a "boy play" that in one instance involved a child sex slave chained to a bed. "We can hear them screaming," one Marine reported. Respect their culture, he was told.

Another scholarly method of obeying Saudi paymasters and distorting the past: leave out significant details. One book, published by an Ivy League University Press, "makes no mention of stoning, female circumcision, crucifixion, beheadings, or sexual slavery."

Muslims called Christians "pigs." The peddlers of the Andalusian Paradise myth omit mention of that telling tidbit. They mention "delightful Andalusian love poetry" without mentioning that it was written about non-Muslim sexual slave girls, not about love between free, adult, Muslim men and women. They leave out the market price of slaves; these numbers speak volumes. A male black slave commanded a much lower sum than a white girl – obviously a man can do more labor than a girl. If these slaves were bought primarily for labor the prices would be reversed. Muslim rulers stockpiled thousands of such slaves in their harems. "Kiz," a Turkish word used for a sexual slave girl, came to mean "Christian woman." "Sakaliba," in Arabic, is from the word for "Slav," commonly the ethnicity of enslaved persons. "All the Slav eunuchs that one finds on the face of the earth come from Spain," a Muslim wrote. Blacks were held in similar contempt. A Muslim in Toledo wrote, "They lack self-control and steadiness of mind and are overcome by fickleness, foolishness, and ignorance."

Islam's apologists leave out the ethnic cleansing of Christians, including, in one event, the mass deportation of twenty thousand families to Africa. They omit mention of how hierarchical and stratified Muslim Spain was, with Arab Muslim males at the top and their various victims occupying lower ranks. Non-Arabs who converted to Islam were not equal, nor were their children. Three hundred such Muslims with Christian ancestors were crucified. Five thousand were beheaded. After one such expression of "tolerance," an Andalusian poet celebrated the "massacre" of "sons of slaves. They had as relatives only slaves and sons of slaves." Remember – the dead were Muslim. But their ancestors were Christian non-Arabs – thus the epithet, "Sons of slaves."

Another method of airbrushing the past: simply ignore inconvenient material. Ignore material published by a military historian. Ignore material in any language but English. Especially ignore material written in Spanish. And ignore contemporaneous Christian accounts.

There's another support for the Andalusian Paradise myth that Fernandez-Morera does not dwell on. Audiences tend to apply to medieval Spain the context of the twenty-first century West. European Christians in 711 were not former imperialists whose languages, English and Spanish, dominated entire continents. Jews were not powerless, nor were Muslims. Europe in this era was still a place where Christians were murdered for being Christian, by Pagans as well as Muslims. In 614, during a Persian invasion, Jews massacred Christians in Jerusalem. Jews were among the most prominent slave traders. At times, Jews allied with Muslims against Christians in Spain. Propagators of the myth dub Muslim institutions dedicated to memorization and study of the Koran "universities." They weren't universities. They are more properly labeled "madrassas."

One might ask, if all the best universities in the world insist that the Andalusian Paradise is truth, not myth, isn't Fernandez-Morera the conspiracy theorist? In the same class as the guy who insists that the government is hiding alien bodies at Area 51?

Fernandez-Morera, with the command of an Olympian fencer, deploys the best weapons of scholarship. He rescues the scholarship that Political Correctness has reduced to the status of a streetwalker. He pulls her up, cleans her up, and reminds her of her better days. He uses research and objective facts to make his case. Nothing could be more transgressive in academia today. His facts carry the thunderous voices of long-silenced cathedral bells.

Reading this book, I felt as if I were running after a speeding freight train. It's an exhilarating experience. Fernandez-Morera's exhaustive notes reference material in at least eight languages. Fernandez-Morera cites ancient and modern works, scholars he agrees with and those he excoriates. He strikes sparks between ancient texts and up-to-the-minute news accounts – including the 2016 American presidential race. He uses primary texts, for example Muslim legal documents. He quotes scurrilous satire and epic sagas. Given his breadth of knowledge, all that's missing from the bibliography are citations to the personal emails he exchanged with Cervantes, Maimonides, Teresa of Avila and El Cid.

In the midst of his educating his reader about contemporary blatant lies and richly rewarded liars, past massacres and crucifixions, Fernandez-Morera remains, as true scholars do, utterly calm. Never does he resort to hate-mongering, or hyperbole. He acknowledges Catholics' discrimination against Arians and Jews. He does not indulge in a lazy, sloppy, relativism: "Everybody did it." He systematically and frankly compares Muslims, Christians, and Jews, including mainstreams and minorities in each group. There is nothing in Medieval Christian Europe to compare to Al-Andalus' slavery, harems, treatment of women, or huge number of beheadings, he insists. While Jews and Christians also discriminated against each other and against their own minorities, only in Islam does he find the thorough, universal, scripturally protected, implacable structure of dhimmitude.  

Fernandez-Morera divides the Andalusian myth into seven claims. Quoted material below is found in influential scholarly texts.

  • The movement of Muslims into Spain was a "migratory wave." Jihad "is not a motivating factor." Jihad is an "inner struggle" "to resist temptation and overcome evil."

  • Christian Europe was "an arena of unceasing warfare in which superstition passed for religion and the flame of knowledge sputtered weakly." The Christian inhabitants of Europe were rednecks. "The men of the woods never strayed far from there." They lived in "gloom and depression," "dramatic decline," "decadence," and "decomposition." Charlemagne could not write his own name.  

  • The Muslim Conquest brought "flowering" Islam to Spain. Al-Andalus "was a beacon of enlightenment to the rest of Europe … among its finest achievements was its tolerance … in keeping with the principles of the Koran." The Koran is a "monument of tolerance." "Moorish leaders helped to build Christian houses of worship." Unburdened by priests, Muslims were "animated by equality … and respectful of all religious faiths." Their Islam was typified by a "pan-confessional humanism." Were it not for its "abortion" by the Spanish Inquisition, today's Islam would reflect Al-Andalus' fully "reformed" version. In short, Muslims were "full of wit and fire, always in love, writing verse, fond of music, arranging festivals, dances, and tournaments every day."

  • The Umayyad Dynasty was "enlightened" and "tolerant."

  • Muslim Spain was a feminist utopia. "Ninety-nine percent" of European Christians were illiterate but Muslim women "were doctors and lawyers and professors." Today it is Western polices that create "the harsh conditions in which distant others live," including Muslim women. "We [the West] are all implicated."

  • "Jews lived happily and productively in Spain."

  • Muslim Spain was a fairyland for Christians. "Neither churches nor monasteries were directly threatened." Muslim Spain was "a place of refuge." Christians "were treated well" and "allowed to worship freely." Muslim Spain "nourished" Christians.

Fernandez-Morera corrects these claims.

The Muslim Conquest of Spain was a ruthless, religiously-sanctioned Blitzkrieg that was recorded, in the words of one jihadi war criminal, as his bringing "Judgment Day" to his victims. Invaders, not peaceful immigrants, burned all the churches in their path and pilfered the wreckage to build their mosques that were, as Muslim chroniclers attest, inferior in construction and design to the Christian monuments they replaced. Jihadis expressed their lust for sexual slaves as war booty and their "love of death." One "burned in his desire to hurt" Christians. Libraries were burned, as in Zoroastrian Persia and Christian Alexandria. Jihadis butchered Christian corpses and boiled the meat in cauldrons. Crosses were so abhorrent that looting Muslims had to shatter them before distributing their gold as booty.

No, indigenous Christians in Spain were not extras in the cast of Deliverance. Their culture was more advanced than that of the invaders; the invaders said as much in their histories, boasting of the eye-popping wealth and meticulous crafts they looted, and the great beauty and refinement of the women they carried off to be raped. Ibn Khaldun commented on the ignorance of Arabs and the low level of their culture, and how they needed Christians and Jews to handle their affairs.

In 981, Al-Mansur demolished Leon. He left one tower standing as testimony to the high quality of the city he was able to destroy. This anecdote tells the reader much about the resumes of jihadis, from Al-Andalus to the World Trade Center, the Bamiyan Buddhas, and Palmyra.  

Fernandez-Morera writes that the popular idea that Islam preserved classical knowledge and passed that knowledge on to Christian Europe "is baseless." He reports that Arabs were astounded by the knowledge of the ninth-century Saint Cyril. Cyril replied that the Muslim Arabs were like someone who carried around a container of ocean water and thought he was pretty special. Eventually he met a Greek who lived on the coast and who told him that to brag of such a container would be crazy; his homeland possessed an endless abundance of sea water.

In his chapter on the daily reality of life in Al-Andalus, Fernandez-Morera pays much attention to Muslim law. Any questioning of Islam or Mohammed could result in being tortured to death. Simple pleasures like wine, garlic, pork, silk and music were condemned. Muslim judges ordered that musical instruments in private possession be confiscated and destroyed. There was music – in spite of condemnation. Musicians were often non-Muslim slaves.

Christians and Jews were polluting and extra care was taken to avoid contact, even with utensils once used by a Christian or Jew. Christians must not even walk past Muslim graves; in doing so, they pollute the dead. Muslims must not accept Christmas invitations or greetings. Once a Jew took water from a well, Muslims refused to use that well.

Physical and cultural alienation of one group from another surpassed co-existence; this is reflected in language. Only six percent of Spanish words have Arabic roots; by comparison, thirty percent of the words in English, a Germanic language, have French roots, as a result of the Norman Conquest of 1066.

I often had to take a breather while reading the chapter on the tolerant Umayyads. "The celebrated Umayyads elevated religious and political persecutions, inquisitions, beheadings, impalings, and crucifixions to heights unequaled by any other set of rulers before or after in Spain," Fernandez-Morera writes. They even crucified the dead, disinterring corpses of alleged Christians in order to desecrate them. They crucified fellow Muslims – at one point, seventy-two Muslim scholars of religious law.

Crucifixions were stage-designed to be "spectacular" and cause onlookers to "faint with horror." Some victims were sliced to death slowly: first hands, then feet, then heads. One victim was crucified on the Cordoba palace door. The corpses of black children hung from a well's ropes as a counterweight.

Innovation is condemned in Islam and innovators were found out and eliminated. A Muslim historian praised this surveillance: spies "penetrate the most intimate secrets of the people, so that [Abd al-Rahman III] could know every action, every thought of good and bad people … the explicit and hidden vices of the … population … God showered gifts upon him … because of his … subjugation of men … to interrogate the accused and carry out an Inquisition against them … terrifying them and punishing them severely." That same Abd al-Rahman III, the "servant of the most merciful," declared that Muslims deviating from strict adherence "deserve extermination."

Al-Andalus was no paradise for women. Consider just this one law. A man who buys a non-Muslim sex slave must mutilate her genitals. Does that fact not tell you volumes about Muslim Spain? Muslim Spain ran on slaves; one of its main exports was slaves. Countless thousands were castrated.

Islamic law tells the rest of the story: the veiling, the stoning, the paralyzing, silencing, and erasing command that a woman requires a male relative to go out in public or to speak for her. "A Muslim wife" a legal manual instructs, is permitted "to have fun with other women with whom there are not men – but only during the day and only once a week." Many of the celebrated women of Muslim Spain were slaves. They were allowed skills and education it would be unseemly for a Muslim woman to exercise. Female "doctors" were probably the ones to perform FGM. Averroes put it succinctly, "Women are used only for procreation."

Life for Jews was also not a bed of roses. Islamic law and custom held Jews in contempt. Jews had to know their place. When they rose too high, they and their coreligionists were killed. Muslim Spain managed to extirpate Christian populations in the area under its control. "When Christians entered Granada in 1492, there were no Christian dhimmis in the city."

Those Christians and Jews who were allowed to live were not allowed to live out of any concept of "tolerance." Umar was Mohammed's father-in-law, companion, and successor. His title is "Farooq," he who separates right from wrong. Umar explicitly stated that Muslims must keep Christians and Jews alive in order to parasitize them. "The Muslims of our day will eat from these people as long as they live … our sons will eat their sons forever." How? Through jizya, the tax on Christians and Jews.

Future editions of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise would be enhanced by the following changes. Fernandez-Morera does not mention Edna Bonacich's pioneering work on middelman minorities. He should.  

Full-color illustrations would also enhance the book. What did the Basilica of San Vicente look like before it was destroyed by Muslims? Illuminated manuscripts, maps, construction styles: all could be depicted in images as well as words. A glossary of the many non-English terms, and a timeline, with dates, milestones, and personages, would also be helpful.

Fernandez-Morera's ninety-five pages of footnotes, in eye-straining tiny print, contain much that really should be in the main text of the book itself. Yes, the book is a streamlined, accessible read, and including the footnote material might make the main text longer and its route a bit more circuitous, but there is much in the footnotes that even a casual reader should not miss.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

Friday, April 15, 2016

ET TU, BRUTE POLAK? Bieganski Goes Shakespearean by Michal Karski


Bieganski Goes Shakespearean
By Michal Karski

Is This a Dumb and Brutal Pole I See Before Me?
Spot the Odd One Out

Did it all start with the immortal Bard, the 400th anniversary of whose death we are commemorating this year? In Act One, Scene One of Hamlet, Horatio says to Marcellus, both just having seen the ghost of Hamlet’s father:
Such was the very armour he had on
When he the ambitious Norway combated;
So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle,
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
‘Tis strange.

And has been strange ever since. The term has undergone some changes through the eighteenth century “Polander” to the present-day “Pole” and of course we all know how complimentary “Polack” can be when used today.
So much for Shakespeare. And now for the pictures.

Top left: Wojciech Bogusławski, known as the ‘Father of Polish Theatre’, was the director of the National Theatre in Warsaw during some of the most turbulent years in Polish history. He famously staged Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz’s political satire ‘The Return of the Deputy’ in 1791 and generally espoused nationalist and patriotic ideals during the time of the Great Sejm of 1788 – 92. He is said to have not only introduced classical tragedies to the Polish stage but to have “Polonized” Shakespeare. He also staged operas and founded a drama school. As well as directing he also acted and played King Lear in 1805. Known as the “Polish Molière”, this champion of Szekspir was certainly no dumb Polak.

Top right is Matylda Getter, Franciscan Sister of the Family of Mary, associate of the more famous Irena Sendler and credited, alongside others in the same order, with saving hundreds of Jewish children at the peril of her own life. Irena Sendler, incidentally, has at least once been called a German, clearly because of her married name   and perhaps because of its similarity to another saviour of Jews, the famous Schindler. Irena Krzyżanowska on the other hand, would be about as easy for English speakers to pronounce as Kościuszko. As for Matylda Getter, who did what she saw as her Christian duty, she is never likely to be the star of a Hollywood film, nuns being generally rather low in terms of glamour quotient. A good, pious and definitely far from dumb, Polka.

Bottom left is General Władysław Sikorski, subject of a recent extremely negative, indeed, defamatory article in The Scotsman and elsewhere which has been discussed on this blog, and which can only be described as a piece of character assassination. Some of the camps in Scotland where Sikorski placed his political opponents may have had brutal overseers, as tends to happen in prisons, but for all his faults and flaws, Sikorski himself was no brute and as one of the architects of the Sikorski-Mayski Pact, which saved thousands of Polish citizens from perishing in the frozen wastes of the USSR, most certainly no dumb Polak.

The odd one out is, of course, Wojtek the Bear, but not because he was a dumb brute Polish animal. As a matter of fact, he was said to have been remarkably clever. The reason for his being the odd one out is that he wasn’t actually Polish nor of Polish descent not had he even been to Poland. He may have thought of himself as Polish and understood the language, and although he was found and adopted by the Polish army in Iran, the country which extended such a warm welcome to the bedraggled evacuees from the USSR, nevertheless if bears had passports, his would probably have been Syrian.

(Exit, pursued by a bear) The Winter’s Tale, Act III, Scene 3