The Warped Mirror..
11 April '12..
The hope that “Grass’s poem could be the gift that keeps on giving” – expressed by Mondoweiss contributor Annie Robbins – has so far been fulfilled in the sense that the controversy that erupted immediately after the publication of the “poem” is still raging on. And while there has been much withering criticism, Mondoweissers were right to hope that the aging Nobel laureate would find defenders for his unpoetic promulgation of old antisemitic tropes.
As Yaacov Lozowick wrote in a recent post on Mondoweiss:
“they fit comfortably into ancient traditions of Jew-hatred, and thus their potential significance shouldn’t be shrugged off. It’s important to keep in mind that the free and pluralistic society of the West also harbors such ugly forms of thought.”
But while the enthusiasm of the Mondoweiss crowd for Grass’s pathetic “poem” was entirely expected, it is arguably revealing that the supposedly more high-brow +972 magazine has turned out to be no less enthusiastic.
First +972 contributor Yossi Gurvitz set out to “pick apart” the charges of Israeli Embassy in Berlin that Grass’s “poem” echoed European traditions of antisemitism. Gurvitz proceeds to list Grass’s claims about Israel and asserts that they are entirely accurate – to get a taste of his ignorance and his utterly pathetic modus operandi, consider this point [emphasis original]:
“Is Netanyahu considering wiping out the Iranian people? Considering some of his statements, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”
Gurvitz concludes triumphantly:
“The truth is never anti-Semitic. There was no blood libel here, no anti-Semitism, no claim of children’s blood used for ritual purposes.”
No, Yossi Gurvitz, Grass made “no claim of children’s blood used for ritual purposes” – but the people who made this claim in the Middle Ages felt that “it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”
Gurvitz concludes expressing the hope:
“The good thing which may come out of this affair is that people may learn to discount screeches of anti-Semitism from Israel with a sigh of ‘there they go again.’”
So just for the record: at +972, it would be a “good thing” if the world shrugged off Israeli complaints about antisemitism when Iran’s leaders refer to Israel as a “cancer” that must be removed, or when Islamists spread the most vicious lies about Jews.
The next praise for Grass at +972 came from Larry Derfner in a post entitled “More power to Gunter Grass for ‘What must be said’.” Derfner was at least sober enough to note a few reservations, but ultimately he also concluded:
“Gunter Grass told the truth, he was brave in telling it, he was brave in admitting that he’d been drafted into the Waffen SS as a teenager, and by speaking out against an Israeli attack on Iran, he’s doing this country a great service at some personal cost while most Israelis and American Jews are safely following the herd behind Bibi over the cliff.”
In yet another post, Derfner offered “A further defense of Gunter Grass,” arguing that given Grass’s record (with which Derfner doesn’t seem too familiar), one has to conclude that
“Grass is not an anti-Semite or hater of Israel – he’s a liberal friend of the Jews and of Israel who wants this country to turn away from all the things liberals naturally dread – extreme nationalism, militarism, ethnocentrism, paranoia – the very things, unfortunately, that Israel has come to stand for.”
There are two particularly striking aspects to the defense of Grass at +972:
First, it is remarkably unsophisticated – informed first and foremost by the approach: have ideology, will comment. Both Derfner and Gurvitz look at the “poem” in isolation, oblivious of the very relevant context of complex German debates about “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” [i.e. coming to terms with the past].
Secondly, just like Grass, the +972 writers – even though they are Israelis – don’t seem to think it’s worthwhile to consider Iran’s conduct and the threat that Iran already poses for Israel through proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas, and they are equally uninterested in the Iranian regime’s vicious rhetoric about Israel. But as historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen emphasized in his analysis of the Grass poem:
“In demonizing Israel, there is a widespread practice in Germany, also perfected here by Grass, of ignoring the context in which Israel exists and acts. That context is that Israel has been existentially threatened for its entire existence and continues to be so today, both by states that wish merely to defeat it or to have it relinquish the West Bank (Gaza it already gave back), and by states, often supported by their publics, that wish to destroy it and eliminate or exterminate its Jews. Why does Grass fail to mention that Iranian leaders, and not just Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have routinely threatened to destroy Israel and kill Jews, and occasionally even hinted that it could be done with nuclear weapons? As the “moderate” former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani explained already in 2001, “the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.” Why does Grass fail to mention that the Iranian leaders speak of Israel using Nazi-like language and metaphors, of cancer and pestilence which must be utterly eradicated? Do I have to say that such speech has been shown to be the rhetorical prelude to genocide?”
All this is of no concern to the +972 contributors whose blog is generously supported by the New Israel Fund. But if this kind of ignorant writing that reflects only disdain for the concerns of mainstream Israelis represents a “New Israel,” I for one appreciate the old Israel all the more.
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