Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The New York Times Receives Grace Never Granted to Polish Villagers

I can't find a source for this photo 

The New York Times recently published two anti-Semitic cartoons. 

Pruchnik, a small, remote village in Poland, staged a custom called "Judas beating." This custom is also carried out in Mexico, Brazil, Greece, the Philippines, and other places. 

Here's one difference in the condemnations that followed: the Pruchnik custom was used by outlets big and small to insist that Poles are essential anti-Semites. "It's in their genes," as many said. "They are Nazi scum," many said. 

I didn't see any news outlets or organizations reaching out to Pruchnik itself, to dialogue with the villagers there. "What are you thinking? What is the purpose of this event? Are you a Nazi? If we could tell you how inflammatory this custom is, would you be willing to change it?" Just the beginning of the questions one might ask. I didn't see anyone ask them. 

No. Coverage didn't exist to make the world a better place. Coverage existed to smear all Poles as essential anti-Semites and Nazi scum. If you didn't go along with that, you were ... an essential Polish anti-Semite and Nazi scum. 

The New York Times, on the other hand is a far more powerful entity than the villagers of Pruchnik can ever hope to be. And the New York Times was offered, and accepted, a chance to explain itself. It does so in Bret Stephens' April 28 column

It was just one editor, Stephens explains. We withdrew the cartoon. We aren't anti-Semites. The people who published the cartoon aren't anti-Semites, just ignorant of anti-Semitism. The anti-Semitism of the cartoon was "undetectable" to the editor who approved it. 

Well this sounds like hogwash to me. But at least he's trying. 

My guess is that Pruchnik villagers would say something very like what the Times is saying. "We aren't anti-Semites ... this is about Judas, not all Jews ... it's an old custom ... " And, as part of a respectful dialogue, concerned outsiders could educate those few who planned this event on why what they are doing is a bad thing, and, incidentally, an international disaster for Poland. 

The New York Times gets that chance. The Polish villagers of Pruchnik have not been given that chance. And they won't be. Because those covering this event, from the two Facebook friends whose friendship is lost, to too many outlets and organizations, didn't choose respectful dialogue with the participants in the custom -- who, it must be mentioned, were overwhelmingly *children* who could have no understanding of the implications of their action. No. Those talking about Pruchnik were not so much covering it as exploiting it, in a manner that simply furthered the stereotyping of Poles. 


  1. You are right but so what?

    If you are black you know that you need to be extra careful around the police. That's unfair but that's reality.

    My question is: assuming that these villagers wanted to beat up a ragged doll, WHY would they go through the trouble of making that doll look so very Jewish (albeit out of a different era)? They do not make Jesus look very Jewish after all - he is typically portrayed with brown or blonde hair. And yet he was in fact a kind of a rabbi.

    That it did not apparently occur to ANYONE there how this will be perceived is either extreme ignorance or a willful "FU".

    This is what I mean by a lack of respect.

    1. "My question is: assuming that these villagers wanted to beat up a ragged doll, WHY would they go through the trouble of making that doll look so very Jewish (albeit out of a different era)? They do not make Jesus look very Jewish after all - he is typically portrayed with brown or blonde hair. And yet he was in fact a kind of a rabbi."

      Good question. One many are talking about. And I'd like to see that conversation with the participants in Pruchnik. Rather than "Poles are genetic anti-Semites and Nazi scum."

  2. The doll doesn't look Jewish at all, it looks like a creepy stork. Seriously, just look at that thing. Which just proves that anything can and will be used against US, no matter how ridiculous. Some years ago an author from the times of Israel even claimed that Marzanna, a demon that represents winter and is symbolically drowned in a river, is actually representing a Jewish woman. This is complete insanity and high level difamation.

    1. Hanna one must avoid "the appearance of impropriety."

      Millions of people around the world saw that dummy and decided that it looked Jewish. You are saying that it doesn't look Jewish. You are one person.

    2. Though, re "the appearance of impropriety", in the case of these villagers they will be defined as "Nazi scum" anyway, under the Mother's Milk rule.

      So as far as that goes, i don't think it will make any difference if they carry on with the tradition or not.

      I would like them to stop because they want to apply the Golden - treating others with the kindness and respect we would want for ourselves.

      Would I be upset if people made effigies of Poles in national costume and attacked them? Yes.

      Therefore... I won't be doing the same to others.

      Although as I have already confessed to facebook we did attend bonfires with "guys" burning on the top - never once thinking what it meant. it was a November tradition.

      It is not done now, so I guess it must have dawned on all of that it was not a nice thing to do.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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