Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype argues, inter alia, that there is a trend to displace guilt for the Holocaust onto Poles, and that a stereotype of Poles as the world's worst anti-Semites is used to facilitate that project.
Bieganski contrasts how powerful voices talk about antisemitism from non-Polish sources with how Polish antisemitism is discussed. Polish antisemitism is identified as inextricable from Polish culture and Polish essence. Polish people, all Polish people, must be shamed in perpetuity. Poles must bear the burden of guilt for antisemitism for all mankind.
Polish antisemitism must never be discussed as being a product of a given time and place and set of conditions. Discussing, for example, the atrocious conditions for Ukrainian serfs in the context of Ukrainians uprising against, torturing and massacring both Poles and Jews during the Khmelnitsky uprising "rationalizes" or "justifies" those tortures and murders. Those tortures and murders must be understood as expressions of a timeless, Ukrainian, evil essence.
Support for these assertions is found in the book.
Recent days have provided multiple examples of the process described in the book.
Attacks by blacks on Jews have occurred in New York City. Some of these attacks have been deadly. The press, religious and political leaders have avoided discussion of the topic. Lately, after high profile attacks during Christmas and Hanukah, discussion has become unavoidable.
Rather than acknowledging that black antisemitism has a long history, and distinct African American cultural roots and profile (described here), leading figures in society continue to do everything they can to avoid calling out black antisemitism. At the same time, Poles remain the guilty party, even in articles ostensibly addressing recent attacks. See a recent piece by Deborah Lipstadt in the Atlantic Monthly, that criticizes Poles and Slovaks but never mentions African Americans. It's easy to bash Poles and Slovaks. It's riskier to criticize African Americans.
The attempt to discuss African American antisemitism while never breathing a politically and culturally risky critical word about African Americans is exemplified by two recent documents, one, an op ed in The Forward, another, an NPR broadcast.
On January 9, 2020, the Forward published "How to Talk about Black Antisemitism," by Tema Smith. The article is astounding. Smith's solution: Don't talk about black antisemitism. Blame it all on white people.
The first time Smith mentions causes, she says: "Public debate turned to root causes. Some pointed to the growing power of white nationalism, which has even found a home in President Trump's administration."
You can't make this up. Black antisemitism is the fault of Trump and white supremacists.
She mentions Louis Farrakhan in passing. No articulation of his power and poison. She mentions anti-Zionism in passing. No details. She insists, "perpetrators of anti-Semitic bias crimes in general are still disproportionately white." She questions, "Is there such a thing as a unique phenomenon called 'Black anti-Semitism'?"
She says that people only ask that question in order to be racist against black people. Black people are the real victims here. "Much of these questions, though, grant cover to anti-Black racism, some overt, like in the case of Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America's many pronouncements." Anyone who objects to the changes in rules around cash bail, that allowed African American Tiffany Harris to repeatedly assault Jewish women, is a white supremacist.
Or maybe black antisemitism is Jewish people's fault. Jews live near black people, but don't share their lives. Jews are gentrifying and causing housing shortages for black people.
"And on the flip side are questions about the role Jews, especially Hasidic Jews, play in the lives of their Black neighbors. Especially in Brooklyn and Jersey City, the Hasidic enclaves are in close proximity to Black communities, but the day-to-day lives of the two groups couldn't be farther apart … If gentrification-caused housing shortages are to blame for the rise in hate crimes, it's because Jews are responsible for displacing Black residents. If poverty is to blame, it's because of the Jewish slumlords and shopkeepers who exploit the Black communities they serve."
But Jews aren't really guilty. It's the white supremacists. "Jews often become convenient stand-ins as the purveyors of the structures of systemic racism that continue to plague Black America."
The very term "black antisemitism" should not be used, Smith argues. Rather, let's blame Christians. Smith quotes James Baldwin who does just that.
"[The Jew] is singled out by Negroes not because he acts differently from other white men, but because he doesn't. His major distinction is given him by that history of Christendom, which has so successfully victimized both Negroes and Jews. And he is playing in Harlem the role assigned him by Christians long ago: he is doing their dirty work."
It's politically risky to blame black people. It's totally cool to bash Christianity.
She quotes Rabbi Jay Kaufman who cited the middleman minority theory, without, in this quote, anyway, naming it. Mentioning the middleman minority theory in relation to Jewish Polish relations is often condemned as in itself antisemitic, though the theory was developed by the daughter of a rabbi. But when it comes to black Jewish relations, mentioning this theory is okay. Rabbi Jay Kaufman writes,
"The Negroes' contact with whites in their own neighborhoods as customers, tenants, and welfare recipients are very frequently with whites who happen to be Jews. Jews play a disproportionate role in their lives. The Jew is the white outpost in the Negro neighborhood. Jews and Negroes, therefore, confront each other within a number of unsatisfactory and deteriorating social situations…New factors have arisen in American life which greatly decelerate the succession process for the Negro. Though the Jew is uninvolved in the causes, because of his high visibility in the urban Negro neighborhood, he finds Negro resentment heightened against him."
She quotes Al Vorspan, similarly citing the middleman minority theory, without naming it.
"the flood of Jews to suburbia has left another problem which exacerbates black-Jewish relations. The existential human contacts between Jews and Negroes in the inner city are merchant-customer, landlord-tenant, social worker-client. These are inherently tense, unequal relations. They are fraught with conflict and resentment. Jews in the core neighborhoods are represented by landlords and pawnbrokers and small merchants."
After quoting these two authors, Smith returns to the only acceptable explanation. White racism is to blame for black behavior. "Antisemitism in the Black community is shown to be the symptom of the structures of racism in the United States." The solution is "Working to address the well-documented social challenges faced disproportionately by Black Americans."
She quotes Al Vorspan,
"Even if we beat every black anti-Semite into the ground with a two-by-four marked 'Remember the six million,' will we eliminate anti-Semitism? What we must do about it is not exhaust ourselves with symptoms but deal with the root problems which spawn hatred and violence and frustration. Until we deal with the misery of the slums, until we eliminate unemployment and underemployment, until we deal with the terrible plight of powerlessness, until we humanize our monstrous welfare system, until we deal with the social problems of the American city, there will be anti-Semitism and there will be every other kind of prejudice and every other kind of antisocial fury."
NPR broadcast an essay that takes a similar tack. It identifies black people as the real victims of antisemitic attacks. Read that transcript here. Excerpts: "these conversations are racialized … there's also a preexisting issue of anti-black racism that is everywhere in the United States and, of course, part of Jewish communities. And these kinds of things can get really inflamed when the tensions are being - you know, occurring across racial lines … recent years the whole question of police violence against unarmed black men and boys has become something that has been discussed outside of the black community. And the conversation has been about the talk that they have with their kids … I'm afraid every day. I'm afraid every day my son gets behind the wheel of a car … your skin color marks you as different right away. If you're not a white person, you're often questioned … increased policing might make people feel genuinely safer for a lot of the community. But also, if, you know, you're black, you know that that might come with you getting profiled."
Again, when Poles try to talk about what the Nazis did to Poland, we are accused of Holocaust denial. John Guzlowski, who writes poems about his Polish Catholic parents' experience, which included murder of family members, imprisonment in Buchenwald, and slave labor, faces such accusations. How dare you talk about Polish Catholic suffering?
But when blacks attack Jews, The Forward and NPR tell us that black people are the real victims. Very different from how the Polish experience is discussed.