Crete Synagogue Burned Down

We visited this synagogue, Etz Chayyim, on our trip to Crete in 2008. It was a beautiful, tranquil, unpretentious place open to the public. Apparently, they used to boast that it was one of the last Jewish buildings in Europe (or elsewhere, for that matter) without 24/7 surveillance. This will change, of course, once they get the synagogue up and running again.

There aren’t many Jews in Crete. Most Greek Jews live in Athens. And there aren’t many of them there, either. Why anyone feels threatened by Jews is a mystery to me; why anyone feels threatened by a reconstructed synagogue (it had been used as a pigsty until the 1990s) is an equal mystery. The BBC reports.

A Reply to Howard M. Kaminsky

Here is a letter I wrote to the Times Literary Supplement which they declined to publish. Maybe Mr. Kaminsky will stumble upon it while googling himself to see if anyone ever bothered replying to his nonsensical posturing. Kaminsky’s letter, published in the TLS, is here. An assessment of Kevin MacDonald’s work can be read here.

Dear Editor,

In the TLS of October 28, 2009 you printed a letter by Howard M. Kaminsky taking Bernard Wasserstein to task for his comments about Hannah Arendt. Kaminsky wrote:

As for his charges relating to Arendt’s use of Nazi authors and her inadequate love of the Jewish people, I admit, Jew that I am, to believing that some Nazi authors had important things to say not unrelated to their Nazism, above all the viciously anti-Semitic but incomparably brilliant Carl Schmitt (whom Arendt used even more than she says), and I also believe that Jews have created gentile hostility by demanding equal rights but refusing to surrender their ethnic integrity. Books have been written about this by a number of authors who are not overtly anti-Semitic – e.g. Kevin MacDonald and Albert Lindemann – and Arendt’s analysis of Jewish “responsibility” for anti-Semitism can hardly be dismissed as due to her “perverse world-view”, let alone her “combination of ira et studio [sic]”.

One reads Mr. Kaminsky’s words with a mixture of revulsion and wonder. What does it mean to suggest that Nazi authors may have had something to say about Jews which was “not unrelated to their Nazism”? Shall we begin considering “viciously anti-Semitic” views of Jews as tantamount to “not overtly anti-Semitic” views, such as those of Kevin MacDonald? What does one have to say these days to be called an anti-Semite – that Jews are pernicious to “gentile” society, that they are running the world through a secret cabal, or simply that they should be sent to the ovens? It appears that anything short of the desire for extermination is not “really” anti-Semitic in Kaminsky’s eyes.

As far as Jews having “created gentile hostility by demanding equal rights” (and still remaining Jews), would such a remark be acceptable if applied to any other minority? I’m sure many people think homosexuals and women have contributed in much the same way to homophobia and misogyny, but such views would certainly be condemned. It is the bigot who is responsible for bigotry, not the victim. Are Jews really “uppity” for desiring equality?

For the record, neither the “Holocaust industry” nor the “Israel lobby” has prevented Mr. Kaminsky (or Mr. MacDonald, for that matter) from speaking his mind.

Best,

Marc Alan Di Martino

Rome, Italy

Why Are We Still Arguing About This?

Today the European court made an important ruling against the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools, saying that “the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates religious and education freedoms.” Right. But the Vatican doesn’t see it that way. In fact, they (and most Italian politicians who either believe this hooey or don’t have the balls to stick up for their country against the bishops) are even trying to twist the crucifix into a universal, non-denominational “cultural” symbol. As Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini puts it:

”In our country nobody wants to impose the Catholic religion, let alone with a crucifix, but it is not by eliminating the traditions of individual countries that a united Europe is built.”

The Bishops’ Conference added:

”The multiple significance of the crucifix, which is not just a religious symbol but a cultural sign, has been either ignored or overlooked.”

Don’t be fooled. Europe is no more united by the crucifix than the United States are by the Ten Commandments. In fact, if anything unites the countries of the Euopean Union, it is a collective desire to get beyond the stifling, warring factionalism of inter-Christian warfare. The Catholic church imposed itself on Europe (and much of the rest of the Christianized world) largely through religious war and political domination, extirpating all other religious denominations except for Judaism, which was left to suffer beneath the heel of the Church as a “living witness” to Christ. Ghettoized, expelled, forced to convert, stripped of their rights and property, they were prepared for the slaughter of crusades, pogroms and – given enough time – the unprecedented carnage of the Shoah. This is the legacy of the Christianization of Europe and the universal values of the Catholic church.

It’s time Europe left them behind for good, making Christianity just another one of the many competing religious and non-religious identities on the continent. Everyone has the right to choose a religion and practice it, believe in it and love it. But no one has the right to impose that religion (yes, Christianity is a religion) on anyone else. Italy is a secular country, born in strict opposition to the totalitarian dogma of the late 19th century church (infallibility, et al). Under Mussolini, the church was given new life as a de facto state religion. The Italian constitution has upheld these agreements to this day.

The time has come for them to be abrogated in the name of humanism and a pluralistic, secular Italian state with freedom of religion for all and privilege for none.

T.S. Eliot and his Enemies

T.S. Eliot’s reputation has undergone a thorough reassessment over the last sixty years or so. He was, at mid-century, the prevailing protagonist of orthodox English literature. As both poet and critic, he was worshipped in the academies and by struggling young poets alike. Hart Crane’s admiration from Eliot was so extreme that his long epic The Bridge was conceived as an answer to The Wasteland.

In 1951 the Anglo-Jewish poet Emanuel Litvinoff read a poem that he had written, To T.S. Eliot.” It was something of a game-changer, as it brought into the open the most uncomfortable aspect of Eliot’s poetry–his anti-Semitism. Amazingly, Eliot was in the audience that evening and is quoted as saying, “It is a good poem, it is a very good poem.”

None of this is news, however. In 1995 Cambridge University Press published a book-length study of Eliot’s controversial poetry, “T.S. Eliot, anti-Semitism and Literary Form” by Anthony Julius. A few years later, Julius would represent Deborah Lipstadt in court against David Irving. Lipstadt was defending herself against a charge of libel. She had written that Irving was a Holocaust-denier. He pressed charges, and the court found him giuilty. Lipstadt’s account can be read in History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.”

But what is so extraordinary about T.S. Eliot, you ask? Everyone, arguably, was anti-Semitic in those days. Except, of course, those who weren’t. And Jews themselves, who paid a hefty price for this durable brand of bigotry. Litvinoff was horrified not only that Eliot had written these poems in the first place as far back as the 1920s, or even earlier. Litvinoff was horrified by the fact that Eliot had them reprinted in his 1948 Selected Poems. Considering that Eliot had barred his embarrassing early book, After Strange Gods, from ever being reprinted, one must ask the question: Why did he allow his Der Sturmeresque characterizations of Jews (or “jews” as Eliot himself wrote it) to be reprinted immediately following the Nazi carnage? Could this have been an oversight on the part of the great poet? If so, then why was After Strange Gods, with its ranting on about perilious “freethinking Jews” (p.20) and the utopian dream of a “Christian society” (p.21), not similarly overlooked?

These are just some of the questions readers must ask themselves when they open Eliot and begin reading, “The rats are underneath the piles/ the jew is underneath the lot.”

Is Holocaust Denial a Taboo?

Mark Oppenheimer has a four-part interview with ace Holocaust deniers Mark Weber and Bradley R. Smith (not Bradley F. Smith) in Tablet, which is the moniker Nextbook is going by now. I’m linking to the first part. If you want to read it all you can follow the links at the bottom of each page. It’s worth it for quotes like this:

“You’ve read all the standard accounts,” I asked, “like Lucy Dawidowicz and Raul Hilberg?”

“Yeah,” Smith said, “that’s what I started with, I read Hilberg. I didn’t read them very closely. Because I’m not really interested in the history of the period.”

“So what are you interested in?”

“In a free exchange of ideas.”

“But you aren’t interested in trying to find out which ideas are right?”

“Not particularly. You know what I’m really interested in? Every generation has its taboo, and I happen to be here with this taboo. I happen to be here with this one. And I can see how it’s exploited, and who benefits from the exploitation.”

So there you have it: Holocaust denial as cultural revolution.

Marxist, Fascist, Muslim Obama

Here is a revealing comment to my recent post about anti-Obama hate speech. In fact, it is so perfectly blind in its sheer disgust of him that I felt it deserved a place of its own in a post instead of getting lost in the comments.The author calls herself The Mad Jewess, and mad she is. At what, it’s hard to say.

“I stood up to the excrement on Youtube, and advised them to REPENT: Rabbis4Obama, Jews4Obama, the list is ENDLESS of the sheep that voted in the Marxist, Fascist, Muslim Usurper in Chief..but remember, we dont make up a whole heckuva lot of the populace, and those that did NOT vote for the pig, NEED to get blogs and head almost far right, with a little balance.

As much as people dont want to admit it, MADOFF got rid of the JINOs; ACLU, and MANY, believe you me.”

Elsewhere, she decries feminism, blacks, abortion, divorce, the anti-christ, racism (against “white people”), Latinos, gun control, Bolsheviks…an this is all on the first page of her blog! If this is any indication of the general attitudes of the anti-Obama hate-clans, it’s a lethal cocktail of far-right xenophobia and the inability to distinguish one thing from another in order to make a cesspool of one’s personal hatreds. These people are not out to debate policy, they are out to offend by any means necessary.

Israelis need all the friends they can get to combat prejudice. But are Jewish xenophobes who court right-wing American bigots (the Left Behind people) the answer to Islamist death squads and anti-Zionist xenophobia on the far left?

The propaganda is essentially the same all around. Change the names, or melt them all together into a Zionist-Muslim-Commie-Fascist-Abortion-loving-Negro-hugging-Feminist hatefest to suit your own personal woes. There is nothing constructive about any of this, however. And it remains a mystery exactly why they think Obama’s policy on Israeli settlements is so unique. It may be ‘displacement’, but is is not really divergent or particularly original.

And Madoff is their hero.

Message to the Obama Blasters

The real enemy?
The real enemy?

Some 70% of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in the last elections. Now, we find out we voted for Hitler? This is something I can’t quite digest, this pro-Israeli Obama-bashing. How did the conservatives hijack Zionism?

“The dhimmi in the White House” has increasingly become a sort of anti-Obama rallying cry. The scope is not to discuss or criticize Obama’s ideas on Israel (entirely debatable,as ever) but to dirty him with the dhimmi brush. He has been tarred and feathered as an enemy of Israel and the Jewish people and a lackey of Islamic rejectionism. As my blogger friend Jew With a View posted recently (quoting Joseph Farah):

I hope my Jewish friends remember this well. Many of them voted for Barack Obama. Many of them voted for Hillary Clinton. These are not your friends. These are the same kinds of people who turned away ships of Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1940s. These are the same kinds of people who appeased Adolf Hitler at Munich. These are the same kinds of people who made the reformation of the modern state of Israel so difficult.

We have gone from understandable criticism of Obama-administration pressure on Israel to stop existing settlement growth to a mischaracterization of Obama as–what? Hitler? Ahmadinejad? Appeasement incarnate, apparently. Farah goes so far as to call this “ethnic cleansing”, perhaps borrowing his human-rights jargon from the anti-Zionist hard left. My baloney detector is going haywire.

Is Barack Obama a cosmically-charged enemy of the Jewish people? Was he sent by God (or the Adversary) to beguile and destroy Jewish continuity in the guise of the president of the USA? Is he, as we are expected to believe, completely subservient to the Islamist lobby? Is he ransoming the State of Israel to appease the likes of Osama bin Laden and the Iranian regime? Does any of this sound familiar?? It sounds like the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis turned on its head. If only everything in politics were so black and white.

I’m all for crticism where it is due, and Obama is no exception. I used to feel disgusted at the hatred against Dubya, though I’ve never felt close to the Republican party or kinship with American conservative causes. I even stood up to fellow liberals when they crossed the line from criticism to hate speech. And there was a lot of that back then. Now it’s back–with a vengeance.

Can’t we say shoyn genug* to conspiracy theories once and for all?

* “enough already!”

The New Bronx Bombers

Ok, so you’re a loser. The world has been a tough place and your life didn’t turn out quite as you had planned. You’ve done jail time and maybe you’ve got drug problems. Welcome to the desert of the real, as my man Zizek would say.

So what do you do with yourself? How do you pick yourself back up and put the fragmented pieces of your failed life back together again? Well, people used to go in for all sorts of stuff like 12-step programs (“give me the power to accept the things I cannot change,” etc…), new age pseudopsychology, or good old hard work.

Now there’s a new alternative: jihad.

The four men who attempted to blow up a synagogue in the Bronx the other day seem to fit the loser model. One had a crack addiction. One read the Koran between shifts as a waiter. All are petty criminals looking to make it big in the world.

The answer: murder some Jews.

Then, the logic would have it, they will begin to pay attention to your “cause.” They will begin to listen. They will probably even–if you become a jihadi superstar–interview you in the New York Times. That’s Warholian fame for a small-time crook.

Would the world listen if you attempted to kill, say, a group of Southern Baptists or Mormons? How about Amish? They would label you a sociopath and throw away the key. But if you kill Jews, or get caught trying, you must inevitably have a grievance. Newspapers and bloggers will spend precious words looking for your “motivation.” Perhaps you are an Arab or a convert to Islam, and came under the sway of a radical mosque where they preach “Death to the Jews!” You will have learned that you can commit an act of homicide in this world and people will actually respect you more. You might, if you’re lucky, get invited to Iran or Lebanon for a hero’s welcome.

From the NYT:

“It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot,” Eric Snyder, an assistant United States attorney, said on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. “These are extremely violent men. These are men who eagerly embraced an opportunity” to “bring deaths to Jews.”

Don’t call it anti-Semitism, though. Show some respect for Islam and its grievances against the West.

ps…I realize that neither waiters nor those who read the Koran (or Qur’an) are necessarily losers. Lighten up.