Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Olga Tokarczuk, Envy and Pride

Danusha, you asked for my opinion re this “affair.” To me, the yipping among some on the right is just that—yipping, to be ignored as one ignores ill-bred web louts.

But, since you asked me to share my thoughts, I spent some time pondering the curious case of Olga Tokarczuk. Here they are:

1. I seldom pay attention to the goings-on of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, but millions of people do. The Nobel Prize is *the* prize, the one most writers would kill for. (Doris Lessing, link below, was underwhelmed, but she is an exception.) Now, when anyone wins an important award, web louts go crazy with envy. Go to any movie discussion board after an actress wins an Oscar and you’ll find louts making mean-spirited comments about her clothes, jewels, and manners.

Envy, you see.

And that, I think, in large part explains the reaction among many to the news of Tokarczuk’s winning the Nobel. Accompanying the envy like an evil twin is the desire to tear the person down, to engage in vicious ad hominem attacks, to post character assassinations. Sane people—and these do not usually worry about the Nobel Prize—would just think, “Good job, mate,” and then get on with their lives, but we are talking about web louts.

2. The people this award pissed off most are chauvinist politicians, most of whom wouldn’t know a sonnet from a door knob. This sounds harsh and elitist and just like Clinton and just like Soros, but it’s true. Do you think Octavio Cortes knows Balzac from Beyoncé? That Rick Perry knows Kafka from Kardashian? That the Polish politicians who have taken to Twitter to denounce their countrywoman’s achievement know Dorothy Parker from Dolly Parton? Some have even boasted proudly that they never read her books. Oh, that will show her! Of course, said politicians would have trouble with her books, as they consist of sentences made up of multiple clauses, but enough about that. For these people and their ilk, a novel is worthy or unworthy not because of what it says, or fails to say, about the human condition, but because of what it says, or fails to say, about their own race or country. It’s literary chauvinism and it is vile.

3. There’s nothing uniquely Polish about any of this. Israel’s most prominent novelists are overwhelmingly leftist, and they too write about flaws in Israeli society. No biggie, right? Well, to some it is a biggie. When David Grossman, one of Israel’s most admired writers, won the Man Booker prize a couple of years ago, louts also took to Twitter and Facebook to denounce him. His crime was writing books that a) criticize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and b) depict life in Israel with the eye of a novelist, rather than that of a two-bit politician or flag-waving chauvinist. For this, some do not like him, though I should add that he was never treated to anything even remotely approaching the furor over Tokarczuk’s winning of the Nobel Prize, I think all this has something to do with the inferiority complex some countries have towards the outside world, the terrible fear that a foreigner might read something in a novel and think, “Are all Poles/ Israelis/Chileans/choose nationality like this?”

4. The most important question we can ask about a novel is this: does it tell us something new about the human experience, about our time here on earth? I read Tokarczuk’s “Flights” in English translation several months ago, and, in my opinion, the answer is yes and hell yes. I do not know if that novel is representational of her work, but I was so impressed that I ordered another of her books. What’s in those pages is far, far more important than comments she made about Polish-Jewish relations or about serfs in Poland. She earned that prize, she deserved that prize, and she should be proud of herself, the haters be damned!

thanks to Liron Rubin for the above comment 

Bitch, Cunt, Traitor, Idiot: Poles Attack Olga Tokarczuk. John Guzlowski in Dziennik Zwiazkowy.

Celebrated Polish-American poet John Guzlowski writes about Polish reactions to Olga Tokarczuk's Nobel Prize. His full article can be accessed at the Dziennik Zwiazkowy website, here. The article appears in both Polish and English. 

An excerpt from John's piece is below. 

...Almost immediately after discovering Tokarczuk had won the Nobel Prize, I went online to see what social media was making of this great honor given to her. What I found was not what I expected to find.

On one of the popular Facebook pages devoted to Poland, people were calling her a “bitch,” a “cunt,” a “traitor,” and an “idiot.” They were saying she wasn’t even Polish, that in fact she was an anti-Polish Ukrainian. They were also condemning her for being anti-Catholic, pro-Semitic, pro-LGBTQ, a man-slamming feminist, and a Nazi – interestingly — all at the same time. In fact, one of the frequent images of Tokarczuk I saw at this social media site and other social media sites was of her standing with a group of people at a modern art exhibit in front of what looks like a painting of a cross being transformed into a swastika.

For me, one of the interesting things about this onslaught of attacks on Olga Tokarczuk is that no one, I must repeat, NO ONE, has said a single word about what she has written. The accusations and attacks are there, but there is nothing in all of the social media sites I’ve gone to that indicates that anyone making these accusations has read even one of her novels or other writings. One commentator in fact says he refuses to read anything by Tokarczuk because of what other people are saying about her on social media..."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Friendship, Death, Facebook, and Bieganski

Dr Morton A Goldberg and I were Facebook friends on and off for at least four years, probably longer.

He was incredibly generous to me. He proofread "God through Binoculars" and picked up errors. He was kind enough to review the book on Amazon.

We talked a lot, both on his page and in private messages.

I really enjoyed his intelligence and decency.

I admire that he was a conservative but saw right through Trump.

I really admired that he allowed people he was not friends with to post on his page. It takes great courage and generosity of spirit to allow that. To allow strangers to comment on your posts.

Morton posted about food, politics, and culture.

Morton described to me in private posts the medical conditions he was struggling with. I recognized from what he told me that his time on earth was limited.

I sent him mass cards purchased from Maryknoll. I am Catholic and Morton was Jewish. He did not object to my praying Catholic prayers for Morton.

When I prayed my rosary and I prayed for Facebook friends, Morton was usually the first friend to come to mind. His body was enduring so much.

He was a doctor himself, a veterinarian, so I'm sure he recognized what his symptoms spelled out for his future.

There was so much struggle. Struggle to get his blood sugar right, to make it so he could stand up, his kidneys. One drug interacting badly with another drug. One drug exacerbating a symptom another drug was meant to fix.

In and out of health care facilities. At one point he hadn't seen a card I sent him because he couldn't make it downstairs to the mail box.

I say we were friends "on and off" because Morton posted some things that caused me to unfriend him twice. One class of posts were attacks on HRC that struck me as misogynist.

The other issue was Morton's identity as the son of a mother who lived in Poland, among, as he put it in one post, "ignorant peasants."

My parents were "ignorant peasants" and that comment didn't work for me.

More seriously in spring he posted about an obscure and tiny village in Poland that carried out a "beating Judas" custom. The article was clearly anti-Polish. What's more, one of Morton's friends made anti-Polish comments to me and about me. I objected. Morton rejected my objection and he said some harsh things to me in private messages. I unfriended him.

In the past few days, my little voice told me that I needed to get in touch with him; that his time was drawing near. I left a message on his page.

I just went to his page and saw the announcement.

Morton, you will remain with all of us who knew you for our entire lives. You are not the type to leave or to be silent.

Morton, for you: Wieczne odpoczywanie racz mu dać, Panie, a światłość wiekuista niechaj mu świeci. Niech odpoczywa w pokoju wiecznym. Amen


I posted the above on Facebook last night.

I can't get over the fact that Morton allowed anti-Polish sentiment to lose him a friend six months before he died, after knowing me for years. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

"How to Fight Anti-Semitism" Bari Weiss's New Book Misses the Mark

How to Fight Anti-Semitism
Bari Weiss's New Book Misses the Mark

America needs a good book entitled How to Fight Anti-Semitism. Though Jews make up 2.2 percent of the US population, Jews constitute 60 percent of religiously motivated hate crime victims. Recent months have seen a surge of violent attacks on Jews in New York City. The attacks are often recorded on video. Attackers are often black or Hispanic. The attacks have gone underreported and little discussed; one theory is that blacks attacking whites is not the kind of hate crime the media wants to emphasize.

We require instruction in fighting anti-Semitism because Israel is a valued US ally, and Israel's very right to exist is questioned on college campuses and by new congress members. We need it because though many have considered anti-Semitism to be a right-wing phenomenon, this hatred is found on the left as well as on the right; witness British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. There are too many anti-Semitic events on university campuses to list. Various watchdog organizations keep records; one such account is here.

We need to prepare to fight anti-Semitism because the US has a rising Muslim population, and as The Pew Research Center reports, "Anti-Jewish sentiment is endemic in the Muslim world." Muslim anti-Semitism distorts American history. Significant percentages of Muslims believe that Jews carried out the 9-11 terror attacks. Amiri Baraka, once New Jersey's poet laureate, PEN award winner, and father of Newark's mayor, repeated this conspiracy theory in his poetry.

We need to understand how to fight anti-Semitism because ignorance of the Holocaust is a "global crisis," including among highly "educated" American millennials. We need to understand the Holocaust for the same reason we need to fight anti-Semitism. The villains who begin by attacking Jews never end by attacking Jews. Anti-Semites are a menace to us all.

Bari Weiss seems well-positioned to write a groundbreaking book defining and combatting anti-Semitism in the 21st century. She became bat mitzvah at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, scene of the 2018 mass shooting. Weiss is a New York Times editor. She's pretty, charming, and young, and has been a guest on Bill Maher's Real Time HBO show. Though she says she doesn't want "points" for her sexual identity, she earns them anyway for once dating Saturday Night Live superstar Kate McKinnon. Weiss describes herself as a centrist, and she has been praised for criticizing anti-Semitism from both the left and the right, from both Christians and Muslims. What's not to like?

Alas, Weiss's How to Fight Anti-Semitism is not the book America needs right now. It reads more like a Facebook post by a bright, passionate, but not particularly scholarly, rigorous, or fair Facebook friend. How to Fight Anti-Semitism, like a Facebook post, focuses on current events. It offers currently popular whipping boys: Western Civilization, Christianity, and President Donald Trump.

Much of the book consists of one account after another of recent anti-Semitic incidents: Tree of Life, the attack on the Hypercacher supermarket in Paris, the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, the decapitation of Daniel Pearl, anti-Semitic incidents on American campuses, and others. In a short while all of these contemporary anecdotes will be dusty and dated. Weiss's insistence that all incidents involving violence against a Jew can be understood using the same paradigm is questionable. Are the young black men violently attacking Jews in New York City really driven by the same motivations as Pearl's murderers and pogromists in medieval Germany? No evidence is offered to support this.

Weiss doesn't get around to her suggestions for fighting anti-Semitism until the final 37 pages of the 210-page book, and her tips feel grounded more in the self-help movement than in any serious scholarship, boots-on-the-ground activism, or skilled self-defense. "Lean into Judaism … Stop blaming yourself … Tell the truth … Trust your discomfort … Allow for the possibility of change … Praise those who do the right thing … Maintain your liberalism" are some of her methods. The suggestions are for Jews, not for non-Jews who are dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism. Prayer and devotion are not among Weiss's suggestions. Weiss "resonates" with a self-definition as a Shinto Jew, that is a Jew who honors her Jewish ancestors. She is not sure about belief in God.

There's been a great deal of serious scholarship on the topic of hate in general and anti-Semitism in particular. There's a massive amount of lived experience on how to survive as a member of a targeted minority. Ethnographers and former hate group members offer veritable MRIs of haters' brains. Those abundant resources are not reflected here.

Weiss says that the New Testament provides the "template" for anti-Semitism. "Christianity" is "responsible for the murder of more Jews than any other ideology on the planet," she writes. Weiss is wrong on three counts. First, as I'll argue, below, Christians have killed Jews, but Christianity has not. Second, Nazism, not Christianity, is the ideology that is responsible for the murder of more Jews than any other. Weiss could benefit from reading "Against Identifying Nazism with Christianity," found here. Third, Weiss makes this statement as part of a whitewash of Islam. More on that, below.

In today's world, every serious person, Christian, Jewish, secular, or other, must understand the following facts. These facts must be stated not just to Weiss but to any anti-Semite who seeks rationale for anti-Semitism within the New Testament. They must also be stated in relation to Islam, which Weiss also addresses.

The New Testament was written by Jews, with the possible exception of Luke, who may or may not have been Jewish. The New Testament was written about a Jew, Jesus. Jesus and the apostles were Jews, descendants of Abraham, living in Israel, speaking Jewish Aramaic and using Hebrew in their religious lives. They followed the Levitical commandments, and they, as do Christians today, regarded the Old Testament as inspired scripture.

Further, the New Testament is rooted in the Old. Open to any page of the New Testament in an annotated Bible and find footnotes directing the reader to parallel passages in the Old. Mary, the mother of Jesus, recites a song called the Magnificat. The song's style is that of the synonymous parallelism of Hebrew poetry. Specifically, Mary's song echoes The Song of Hannah from the Old Testament book of Samuel. Jesus is asked to identify the greatest commandment; in his reply, Jesus echoes Deuteronomy and Leviticus. As Jesus dies on the cross, he speaks words from Psalm 22.  

Jews, no less than Christians, have to wrestle with difficult verses. The Old Testament contains many hair-raising proclamations where an angry God promises total devastation to his chosen people. In Hosea 13-14:5-15,1 God says he will be like a lion or bear and tear Israelites' hearts from their breasts and fetuses from pregnant wombs. This is terrible stuff, but depicting God as so angry at sin that he exerts graphic punishment is part of the Jewish scriptural tradition, a tradition in which the Jews writing the New Testament were steeped. Jews and Christians must work together to interpret these verses.

There are no verses in the New Testament calling on Christians to kill anyone, including Jews. Rather, the message of the New Testament can be summed up in one verse: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." The Parable of the Good Samaritan is groundbreaking. Its message is that we are to love those unlike ourselves, including the most hated other. Jesus, after torture and near death, said, "Father forgive them." This is the message of the New Testament.

Yes, haters have used verses from the New Testament to rationalize anti-Semitism and violence against Jews. While acknowledging this, we must not elevate haters' twisted logic.

The Old Testament, no less than the New, has been blamed for atrocity. For centuries, those who support slavery and serfdom cited the Biblical "Curse of Ham." Eve's eating the apple, precipitating exile from the Garden of Eden, has been cited as the source of misogyny. Exodus 22:18 has been blamed for Europe's witch craze, and Leviticus 20:13 has been blamed for all homophobia.

I don't have to wonder how Bari Weiss would feel if I were to advance the Old Testament as the "template" for slavery, for misogyny, for crazed mob killings, or for homophobia. I know she would feel the outrage I feel when I read her citing the New Testament as the "template" for anti-Semitism. Not just outrage, but logic, renders all these arguments invalid. Clearly the message of Exodus, of "Let My People Go," is one of a God who wants people to be free, not enslaved. The Old Testament is alone in world scripture for featuring real, named, average women as driving characters: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Ruth, Naomi, Judith, Esther, Hannah, Hagar, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Tamar, Shiphrah, Puah, and Jochabed. When it comes to the Biblically-mandated death penalty for witchcraft or homosexuality, Jews mention the Talmud's anti-death penalty stance. Further, we know that slavery, misogyny, homophobia, and mob killings are found in cultures untouched by the Bible.

Anti-Semites' distorted interpretations of the New Testament are not the alpha and omega of Jewish-Christian relations, but that is all Weiss talks about. She does not mention that again and again popes and everyday Christians have put their lives on the line to fight against anti-Semitism. The sixteenth-century Council of Trent insisted that humanity, primarily Christians, are responsible for the death of Jesus. The twelfth-century papal bull Sicut Judaies insisted that Christians must not harm Jews; this bull had several antecedents and descendants. Weiss mentions France's persecution of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, but not his defense by devout Catholic Charles Peguy.

Weiss blames the Rintfleisch massacres, a medieval German pogrom, on the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and, as she puts it, "a wafer," that is, to me and other Catholics, the Eucharist. Weiss claims that "one hundred thousand Jews were murdered." I cannot find her number supported in other sources.

In fact the pogrom to which she refers was sparked by debt. A man indebted to Jews invented a story of abuse of a Eucharist in order to excuse a pogrom. Weiss does not mention that some Christians attempted to assist persecuted Jews, or that when the local monarch regained lost power he put the man who stirred up the pogrom to death.

Why do these details matter? Why must we mention that Catholic doctrine does not mandate that Christians murder Jews, that communion is indeed holy to Catholics and that attributing to communion the power to murder Jews is profoundly inaccurate, that not all Christians, even in the midst of a medieval pogrom, were murderers? Why must one mention the class elements at play? 

These details matter because Christians like me are on the front lines in condemning anti-Semitism wherever we encounter it, no matter the social cost. It matters because Christians like my father risked their lives fighting, and defeating, anti-Semitic fascism in World War II. It matters because Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world today, and when you equate a religion – Christianity – with a crime – anti-Semitism – you make Christians less safe. Why bother protecting Christians if their belief system is the font of worldwide evil? These details matter because Weiss's analysis is wrong. The New Testament is not the template for anti-Semitism, and one must understand the historical factors at work in hate.

Weiss's tendency to leave out key facts occurs more than once in How to Fight Anti-Semitism. She bashes Breitbart as anti-Semitic. Proof? Breitbart called Bill Kristol a "renegade Jew." Weiss does not mention that the author of that very column was David Horowitz, who is himself Jewish.

Weiss insists that she was subjected to internet abuse after her appearance on the Joe Rogan show because she is Jewish. During her appearance, Weiss smeared Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard as an "Assad toadie" and as a supporter of conversion therapy. Rogan challenged Weiss. Weiss floundered, acknowledging that she didn't know the meaning of the word "toadie." She continued to insist that Gabbard was pro-conversion therapy. In fact Gabbard supported conversion therapy when she was a teenager. She has since renounced that support. The most popular critical comments on YouTube accuse Weiss of being arrogant and unaware of facts. The most popular comments do not mention Weiss's Jewishness.

Weiss cites Nathan Hannover, the seventeenth-century chronicler of the 1648-1657 Khmelnytsky Uprising of Ukrainian Cossacks against Polish domination. Weiss describes tortures committed by Ukrainians against Jews. It looks, again, like what we have is those evil Christians doing bad things to Jews because they are Christian and Christians hate Jews. Weiss does not mention that the Khmelnytsky Uprising, which, to her, is all about Christian Ukrainians expressing their innate, Christian anti-Semitism, is recorded in Polish history as part of "The Deluge," a catastrophic series of attacks against Poland in the seventeenth century. She doesn't mention that Christian Ukrainians tortured Christian Poles, thus, it can't be explained away as "Those awful Christians inevitably acting out their innate anti-Semitism caused by their religion." The tortures of the Khmelnytsky Uprising were repeated centuries later. In the 1940s, during the Volhynian Slaughter, Ukrainians again tortured and murdered Poles. One hundred thousand Poles were killed. Priests were crucified. The genocidal goal was to obliterate any biological or cultural Polish presence. Weiss doesn't mention that the very historian she cites, Nathan Hannover, himself speaks of Jewish oppression of Ukrainian peasants.

My friend John Guzlowski's family members were raped, tortured, dismembered, and murdered by Ukrainians and Nazi allies. I do not hesitate to acknowledge that the people who tortured my friend's family were, in their own minds, exacting revenge on Poles for previous mistreatment. Acknowledging this history does not justify Ukrainians torturing and murdering my friend's family. Acknowledging this history contributes to understanding. Weiss, though, rejects any integration of historical details into her analysis of anti-Semitism. "This kind of logic" she says "excuses anti-Semitism." No, placing attacks in context does not excuse anti-Semitism or any other violence. Rather, fully understanding atrocity is perhaps the only way out of atrocity.

Weiss extracts events from historical context. Those atrocities are simply just more examples of Christians hating Jews just because they are Christians, and that's what Christians do. Weiss also extracts anti-Semitism from the context of other hatreds. Anti-Semitism, she insists, has nothing in common with hatred of any other people from any other group. Study of hate and atrocity in general, she seems to feel, cannot add to understanding of anti-Semitism.

Other scholars have taken a different approach. One such scholar is Edna Bonacich; another is Amy Chua. Bonacich is a rabbi's daughter. Chua's aunt was murdered by her Filipino chauffeur. Both scholars struggled with the problem of hate. Their work describes a variety of populations that have experienced prejudice, atrocity, and exile. Bonacich calls these populations "middleman minorities." Chua calls them "market-dominant minorities." Bonacich, Chua, and Thomas Sowell, who has also taken up this topic, write not just about Jews in Europe, but also Chinese in Malaysia, Indians in East Africa, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Koreans in Los Angeles, and others. My own take on the middleman theory at play in Polish-Jewish relations can be seen here. Weiss never mentions these scholars' work. Even if Weiss wanted to reject Bonacich's theory, she should at least have addressed it.

Rather, Weiss chooses an ahistorical and disease-model approach. She says anti-Semitism can't be defined because it is a "shape-shifter" that "slithers" away from definition. Anti-Semitism cannot be understood alongside any other hatred. Rather, anti-Semitism is "an intellectual disease," "a deeply rooted and highly infectious thought virus carried in the DNA of Western culture." Every participant in Western civilization carries this virus. When stress affects the immune system, you break out in a case of anti-Semitism. "The virus will out." "Anti-Semitism is baked into the very foundations of the world we inhabit." Anti-Semitism is "an essential scaffolding for Western civilization." It is "one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed." Thus, anti-Semitism is "a culturally inherited disease."  

If you think you are not infected with the anti-Semitism virus, if you think you actually like Jews, Weiss will correct you. "A philo-Semite is an anti-Semite who likes Jews." Did no one reviewing this book at the editing stage realize how offensive this is, or how close it is to Nazi ideology that compared Jews to a disease?

Weiss misrepresents the Jewish experience in the United States, and her misrepresentation is not a minor matter. Jews succeeded in America without having to sacrifice their Jewishness, she says. Their success proves that America is better than, say, Poland, a country she mentions several times, always disparagingly . In fact Jewishness in Poland and America were completely different phenomena. In Poland, Jews spoke a different language, Yiddish, than the rest of the population, they wore distinctive dress, they did not marry non-Jews, and they occupied a caste-like status in the primitive economy. Those conditions don't exist in the US. Where they are even slightly replicated, tension erupts.

Weiss mentions the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank in Georgia. She depicts Frank's murder as an unchanging expression of Christian hatred for Jews. She does not mention the economic and regional tensions at work. Frank was a Yankee, and Mary Phagan, the girl he was alleged to have killed, was a 13-year-old local girl working in his factory. She'd gone to work at age 10. There was much tension among poor, Southern whites because their children were doing hard, low-paying work in factories owned by non-locals. None of these economic and social details excuses the lynching of Leo Frank. All of them must be adduced fully to understand what happened to Frank.

University of Iowa Professor Stephen G. Bloom's superb 2001 book Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America offers a contrast to Weiss's approach. Bloom describes cultural and economic tension between non-Jewish Iowans and newly arriving Orthodox Jews in one rural town. Bloom offers a thorough history and rich ethnography based on his penetration of the local community. He does not write off tensions as resulting from "diseased" Christian Iowans just giving in to their innate, undefinable, anti-Semitism virus. He describes daily interactions that go wrong, and that can be addressed and changed for the better for everyone involved.

If there is one antagonist in Weiss's book, it is President Donald Trump. He has, she argues, eroded standards of civility that protect minorities like Jews. She categorizes as anti-Semitic Trump telling The Squad to go back to where they came from. I'm no Trump apologist and I acknowledge that Trump is uncivil. But Weiss misses that Trump's successful incivility is an epiphenomenon, a backlash against a more powerful social force. Trump did not invent incivility. Have a look at the utterly vile, misogynist and classist insults that liberals hurled at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin when she first appeared on the national stage. Look at how liberals use the word "white" to denigrate human beings. Listen to what squad members Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar say about America. When Trump supporters hear Trump's incivility, they hear a champion standing up for them against an all powerful Political Correctness that has suppressed and demonized them.

Similarly, Weiss could, but she does not, cite ethnographic research on those online hate group members she rants against. Christian Picciolini, a former hate group member, says that young men are susceptible to hate groups because they need identity, community, and purpose. Modern schools, popular culture, and other socializing forces in America all too often do not provide these vital gifts to young white men. Rather, the powers that be drill into them that they are shameful racists, sexists, and responsible for all the world's woes. Weiss does acknowledge that the left creates a vacuum by refusing to create a healthy patriotism and pride. But she insists that Western Civilization is inherently diseased, so she undermines her own argument.

Weiss opens her chapter on Islam with her description of the Rintfleisch massacres. Holy communion makes Catholics kill Jews: a Politically Correct way of opening a chapter meant to discuss Islamic anti-Semitism. Weiss goes on to indict Christianity as the "ideology" that is responsible for the murder of more Jews than any other. She relativizes. The New Testament is just like the Koran because both contain "terrible lines about Jews." Weiss says that Jews lived comparatively well in Muslim lands until recently, when Christian colonizers arrived, bringing anti-Semitism with them. Surprisingly, she also cites the creation of the state of Israel as a cause of Islamic anti-Semitism.

I sent my impressions of Weiss's comments about Islam to Robert Spencer. As far as I know, he has not read Weiss's book, so his reaction is to my summary of it. He wrote back to me, "This is howlingly false. Antisemitism is deeply embedded in the Quran and Sunnah. See the citations here. There is also a great deal of antisemitism in Islamic tradition and Islamic history. See my book The History of Jihad."

In addition to the anti-Semitism in the Koran, one must be aware of the following. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, unlike Jesus, was not a Jew. He did not live in Israel. He did not speak Jewish Aramaic or understand Biblical Hebrew. Islam denigrates the Bible, saying that Jews and Christians corrupted the message they received from Allah. Mohammed was sent to correct that corruption. Christians read the Old Testament every day. People in Muslims countries have been tortured for being in possession of a Bible. Islam rewrites Jesus as desiring to destroy Christianity. The Koran insists that Abraham was not a Jew. Weiss mentions none of this.

And this is one of the reasons why every citizen, no matter their personal faith life, must understand my lengthy comments, above, about Christianity and anti-Semitism. If Weiss is correct, Christianity is evil and should be eliminated. She's not correct. The New Testament is not like the Koran. In Jesus's sayings and behavior, there is no exhortation to, or celebration of, killing Jews or anyone else.

The same cannot be said about the Koran, hadith, and Sunnah. Readers should expose themselves to the sources Robert Spencer cites, above. The Koran repeatedly and explicitly calls for the killing and torture of non-Muslims. It says that Allah turned Jews into apes and pigs. As part of daily prayer, Muslims repeat seventeen times a day that Jews anger Allah (and that Christians go astray.) There is no comparison between the Islamic approach to Jews and Judaism and the Christian approach.

Christians like me, indeed Polish Catholics like me, oppose anti-Semitism with everything we've got. We do so because of, not in spite of, our Christian faith and investment in Western civilization. I am not diseased because I am a Christian and a Westerner. I am blessed. My faith and my civilization give tools I would not otherwise have to dismantle hate. I hope those who see the world as Weiss does learn to recognize people like me as allies.

Persons who are neither Christian nor Jewish need to understand, as well. We live in the age of the Clash of Civilizations and that clash is taking place in local schools. Young people need to know that their heritage is worth cherishing, and they need to understand the challenges presented by other worldviews.

Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery

This piece appears at Front Page Magazine here

Lukasz mentions a Polish duke who went out of his way to help Jews. The question becomes, why did this Pole, a convert to Catholicism from Orthodoxy, worked to protect Jews? I think Bonacich's theory may offer insight here. 

Here is a screencap of the passage from Abyss of Despair that Lukasz mentions. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Decent People Reject Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories.

A website called Poland IN is running a conspiracy theory about the Bieganski, Brute Polak Stereotype. The article is entitled "British Historian Unveils How Anti-Polish Holocaust Narrative Was Initiated." The article says it is recapitulating an account by Norman Davies in his autobiography. 

The article can be summarized thus: Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer is single-handedly responsible for negative stereotypes of Poles in relation to WW II. Bauer began the anti-Polish stereotype at a 1974 meeting at the Israeli embassy in London.

First: like every person of Polish ancestry, I owe a great debt of gratitude to Norman Davies. He wrote God's Playground, and we all love that book.

But the article's argument is nonsense. The argument, taken at face value, is also anti-Semitic.

I'm not saying that Norman Davies is anti-Semitic. I'm saying that this article is. It's also simply factually false.

Anti-Polish stereotypes have been promulgated by non-Jews. Some Jews have worked very hard against anti-Polish stereotypes. In fact there are plenty of Jews who have worked against these stereotypes more than many Poles.

The idea that one man, Yehuda Bauer, has the power to tell every newspaper, every magazine, every TV broadcast, every movie, every joke-teller, every teacher, how to depict Poles is by definition an anti-Semitic stereotype. It's the old idea that Jews are so superhuman that no one can resist them.

Finally, what about the Poles? Poles in Poland, Poles in America, Poles in England, Australia, Brazil? There are almost forty million Poles in Poland. There are about ten million Poles in the US. There are Poles in Canada, Brazil, the UK, France.

Poles can read and write and speak and make TV broadcasts, films, magazines, newspapers, textbooks, school curricula, novels, talk show appearances, syllabi, university lectures, no less than anyone else.

Poles can endow university chairs, can buy books, can put books on school curricula, can support their historians and story-tellers. 

I pity anyone who believes that one Jewish man was able to brainwash the entire world to believe negative stereotypes about Poles.

I pity those Poles who feel so impotent that they cannot tell their own story on campuses, in front of cameras and microphones.

The belief that one Jewish scholar could or would want to brainwash the world to think negatively about Poles is on its face an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Synagogue Shooting in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashanah prayer by Arthur Szyk 

There's been an attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, today, which is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. 

I am on my way to work and can't summarize all the news coverage here. If you Google Halle, Germany, you will find the most recent accounts. 

Also, someone sent in a link to this blog that took to me a page with some of the most vile, anti-Semitic material I have ever seen. It was Nazi quality hate, but it's being published in the 21st century. I did not post that comment. 

In his play Wesele, Stanislaw Wyspianski wrote, "Let there be war the whole world over, as long as the Polish countryside is peaceful, as long as the Polish countryside is quiet." 

He wasn't really wishing war on the world. He was expressing grief at all of the attacks on Poland, and the uprisings, which occurred, when Poland was under occupation, once per generation. 

I wish I had his poetic gift, and I wish I could say something equally as poetic to Jewish friends. 

God, let our Jewish friends know peace and security, and let all the anti-Semites have their confrontation with truth. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Polish Attitudes towards Germans and Jews; Israeli Attitudes toward Poland; Israeli Attitudes toward Germany

An anonymous poster sent in the above, linked here

The poster asks why Poles have a more positive attitude toward Germans than toward Jews. 

My answer would be, "Ask the Poles." This company says it is the best public opinion researcher in Poland. Surely they could ask this question. 

Also, I doubt this poll. I have not met Poles who have positive attitudes towards Germans. I certainly struggle with my own problems with Germans. Anti-German feeling has been part of Polish life for centuries. There have been killings and riots, going back centuries. Didn't Dmowski say that every Pole is the enemy of every German he meets? 

Finally, one possible answer is that Germans have apologized to Poles. See for example here

With Jews, on the other hand, feeling has gotten worse since WW II, not better. Poles are frequently thrust into international controversies, in which Poles are identified as the worst people on planet earth. These controversies involve WW II and the Holocaust. 

March of the Living stages visits to Poland, and there have been terrible events where young Jews from around the world express great hostility to Poland by, for example, in one instance, defecating in hotel sinks. This is covered in Bieganski

But I'm only guessing here and the answer can be found in further research, not in anonymous internet posts. 

BTW, at least fifty percent of Israelis have a negative view of Poland. Israelis also feel that Poles collaborated with Nazis in the Holocaust. No doubt these attitudes contribute to Poles' negative attitudes toward Jews. See here

FTA: According to the poll, 49 percent of respondents have an “unfavorable” impression of Poland (of those 33% said “somewhat favorable” and 16% “very unfavorable.”) Thirty-seven percent had a “somewhat favorable” view of the country, and only five percent “very favorable.” Nine percent had no opinion.

Once presented with a number of “facts” about Poland — such as the government’s condemnations of Hamas rocket attacks, the very low number of anti-Semitic incidents there, the absence of an organized effort to boycott Israel, and the rapidly growing economy — respondents’ attitude toward the country significantly improved.

At the end of the survey, they were asked again about their views, and more than three-quarters (76%) now had a favorable perception of Poland, while only 19 said they still have an unfavorable view.

At the same time, two-thirds (67%) approved this statement: “Poland has been reluctant to fully accept responsibility for the role its citizens played during the Holocaust.”

OTOH, Israelis LOVE Germany. Jews' love of Germany is also covered in Bieganski

See here

"Most Israelis have a positive attitude toward Germany, and about one-quarter of them even see it in an “extremely positive” light, according to a new poll published Monday by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation."

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Fake Nazi Death Camp: Wikipedia's Longest Hoax, Exposed Haaretz

from Haaretz
Falsified image of fake gas chamber
From Haaretz:

This dry description of the systematic murder of ethnic Poles by Nazi forces during World War II was taken from the English-language Wikipedia article for the “Warsaw concentration camp,” also known as Konzentrationslager Warschau. The site where the camp stood is an object of pilgrimage for some in Poland, who hold periodic ceremonies on what they believe is hallowed ground. They come to honor the memory of thousands of Poles murdered in a gas chamber located near the Warsaw West (Warszawa Zachodnia) train station – which still exists – and have even erected monuments and plaques in their memory.

There’s just one problem: No such death camp ever existed. There is no historical evidence of German gas chambers ever existing in Warsaw, and nowhere near 200,000 people died in the cluster of Nazi internment centers that did stand at the basis of the myth of KL Warschau.

“It’s fake history,” says Prof. Havi Dreifuss, a Tel Aviv University historian and Yad Vashem’s expert on Poland and the Holocaust, when asked about gas chambers in Warsaw. Other Holocaust historians share her unequivocal position: “It’s a conspiracy theory,” says Prof. Jan Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian historian from the University of Ottawa, when asked about the legend behind the death toll. Yet both claims appeared, almost without interruption, for 15 years on the English-language version of Wikipedia in what is said to be Wikipedia’s longest-standing hoax.

Since the Wikipedia article on the “Warsaw concentration camp” was opened in August 2004, and until it was completely rewritten this past August, it falsely claimed that there was an extermination camp in the Polish capital. The article was translated into a dozen languages, and false bits of information from it permeated other Wikipedia entries on related subjects, gaining over half a million views in English alone. For example, bogus details on alleged prisoner numbers and the death toll found their way to central articles on the Holocaust on Wikipedia. These include “Nazi crimes against the Polish nation” and even the entry “Extermination camp,” where KL Warschau was listed alongside camps like Auschwitz and Majdanek for over 12 years.

The nature of this falsehood – the fact that it’s a well-known conspiracy theory that was deliberately pushed out – alongside the scope of its impact on other articles and their longevity within Wikipedia are what turn the extermination camp at KL Warschau into the longest-running hoax ever uncovered on the online encyclopedia. The first version of “Warsaw concentration camp” said the site was home to “death camps” where Warsaw’s Gentile population was “exterminated,” and before the article was partially rewritten this past May, it was called an “extermination camp” in the opening lines.

The person who first discovered the scale of the distortion – and is now arguing to have it recognized as Wikipedia’s longest hoax – is an Israeli editor dubbed Icewhiz, who refuses to be identified by his real name but agreed to speak with Haaretz. Icewhiz has already rewritten the English-language article for KL Warschau to reflect the accepted historical truth, but his attempt to cleanse other Wikipedia articles that incorporate material from it reveal that the principal entry is only the tip of an iceberg. An examination of his claims by Haaretz reveals the existence of what seems to be a systematic effort by Polish nationalists to whitewash hundreds of Wikipedia articles relating to Poland and the Holocaust.

This attempt to revise the accepted history of the Shoah on the internet encyclopedia parrots the revised historical narrative currently being trumpeted by the Polish government. In this narrative, the Poles in general – not just the country’s Jewish population – were the main victims of the Nazi occupation. This line attempts to shift the light away from a growing body of research into cases of Polish cooperation and collaboration with the Nazis in the persecution of Jews. The effort to rewrite Polish history on Wikipedia joins Holocaust distortion efforts by Polish think tanks – picked up and echoed by nationalist media outlets – that try to increase the estimate of the number of Poles who perished during the so-called Polocaust, a term that has gained popularity in recent years and is used to describe the mass murder of non-Jewish Poles at the hands of the Nazis. Many times, this also includes minimizing the number of Jews who died during the Holocaust. And while this new Polish narrative has failed to make headway in academia or the world media, on Wikipedia it has thrived...

Read full article here