Most German publications no longer even pretend to have any wariness about coming off as anti-Jewish. Gone are the days when Germans had to at least appear a tad more cautious than their fellow Europeans. The latter reverted quickly enough to their old Jew-baiting habits, but the Germans have willy-nilly caught up.
A cogent example is being consistently provided by Munich’ s left-liberal Süddeutsche Zeitung, which happens to be Germany’s largest broadsheet daily. It recently featured a cartoon lampooning Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg after his outfit had acquired WhatsApp. The idea was to show Zuckerberg as a voracious octopus that swallows up everything around it. The caption at the bottom lefthand corner of the cartoon clearly read “Krake Zuckerberg” (German for “Octopus Zuckerberg”). Up to this point, it’s tolerable criticism.
But the octopus, as drawn by cartoonist Burkhard Mohr, was given quite a distinctive face. Its function, presumably, was to make sure we don’t lose sight of the fact that young Zuckerberg – innovative enough to have given the world a social network which millions of Germans use – is a Jew. To that end, Mohr portrayed him with a preposterous hook-nose and thick fish-lips – as per the freakish stereotype sinisterly ascribed to Jews by their tormentors.
The most glaring example was Julius Streicher’s Nazi-era Der Stürmer which surpassed all competitors in caricaturing Jews as hook-nosed, spiteful grotesques. However, while Der Stürmer was the worst, it wasn’t alone. In fact, it’s still seemingly unobjectionable all over the globe to gratuitously picture Jews in Der Stürmer style.
The Arab world, beloved by ardent liberals, has long specialized in this genre of demonizing and degrading misrepresentations of Jews.
Even in sterling democracies, such as Britain and the US, we routinely see much of the same. It’s as if this is the stock depiction of the Jew and nothing else will drive home the identity of the targeted individual and/or group. A Jew can be as dashingly handsome as the late Moshe Dayan was, but still be portrayed as a repulsive Der Stürmer Jew – lest there be any misapprehension.
And so, a baby-face like Zuckerberg, who looks nothing like Mohr’s hideous ogre, must be given the mandatory hook nose so no one misses the message.
Herein lies the crux of the problem.
Why was it essential to emphasize Zuckerberg’s ethnicity? Why did Zuckerberg have to be lambasted as the generic Jew? Was it even vaguely germane to the issue at hand? The cartoonist’s response was as clichéd as his portraiture. He expressed astonishment at the fuss kicked up. In an email to The Jerusalem Post he insisted that he “did not deal with Mr. Zuckerberg, [but] rather Facebook.” That, doubtless, is the impression both he and Süddeutsche Zeitung had attempted to impart after having replaced the “Krake Zuckerberg” caption with “Krake Facebook.”
Next came a quasi-apology: “I’m very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers’ feelings I may have hurt,” Mohr wrote, stressing that “anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me.” Sigh of relief! Our minds have been put at ease.
We would expect no less. Most contemporary anti-Semites assiduously and resentfully deny even latent anti-Semitism.
If anything, the most common present- day pose of anti-Semites is that of champions of justice, of human rights, of the downtrodden.
Of course, the goose-stepping forebears of today’s Germans would have been just as likely to proclaim the same honorable sentiments. It’s all just a matter of whom one casts as the enemies of justice, rights and the downtrodden.
Now as then, it’s cool to call the miscreants Jews. But whereas in Streicher’s time it was abrasively in-your-face, today it’s underhanded – as per the exacting diktats of political correctness.
Thus Mohr feigns surprise at what’s intimated as our hysteria. It’s quite a stretch to believe that he couldn’t conceivably have realized that there is a smidge more than a faint resemblance between his art and Der Stürmer’s – unless Mohr is really a just-landed Martian.
But Mohr’s response isn’t the only disingenuous one. The newspaper which features his output is likewise serially surprised.
It regrets what it habitually refers to as “misunderstandings.” Last July 2, it chose to accompany book reviews hostile to Israel with an illustration of a rapacious horned monster with overlarge fangs, ready to devour its grub.
The macabre illustration, lifted from a cookbook, had no remote connection to the topic. Nonetheless, the caption read: “Germany is serving. Israel has been given weapons for decades – and partly free of charge. Israel’s enemies think it is a ravenous Moloch.”
In this context the image was exploited, again Stürmer-style, to dehumanize the Jew and picture him as a fiendish parasite.
There was no unavoidable necessity to juxtapose an unrelated graphic with the text, to say nothing of inserting the Moloch allusion.
A day later, the paper dismissed the hullaballoo as a “misunderstanding.” This word appears to be all the rage in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
This is also the newspaper that in 2012 featured Günter Grass’s polemic poem accusing Israel of no less than seeking to exterminate 80 million Iranians.
The cumulative effect of these and many more such “misunderstandings” whips up an unfavorable public opinion. The upshot is that German opinion, with fast disappearing complexes vis-à-vis the Jewish state, is nowadays as antagonistic to Israel as is opinion in any European country.
The Germans had rid themselves of the discomfiture of coming out stridently against us. Not only did they not lose thereby, but they gained.
Notable mid-20th century scholars, who explored the enduring and mutating nature of anti-Semitism and anti-Semites, concluded that there’s a flush of empowerment in joining the dominant groupthink.
Distress arising from given disadvantages can be diluted by subscribing to prevailing prejudices against others. Moreover, the more vocal and aggressive the display of solidarity with whatever excites majority fervor, the more accepted or equal the dubious recruit to the cause feels.
This sense of empowerment, it was thought, accounted for certain manifestations of black anti-Semitism.
But it also explains a whole lot about the “New Germany.” That famous “Other Germany” now derives reinvigorated confidence from resonating Europe’s ever-amplified anti-Jewish theme.
To be sure, Germans hardly needed to convert to the anti-Semitism of others.
They coined the very term. Back in 1881, German agitator and publicist Wilhelm Marr popularized the pseudo-scientific sounding euphemism for what was straightforwardly till then known as judenhass (“Jew-hatred”).
Anti-Semitism’s poisonous seed flourished, not coincidentally, in Germany’s ultra-fertile soil. Not too long after Marr’s linguistic inventiveness, German anti-Semitism burgeoned into the Holocaust – history’s greatest-ever premeditated atrocity.
For the first years thereafter, Germans had to pose as penitents. They experienced far more angst about their blemished reputation than they harbored sincere remorse for the innocent souls they tortured, the blood they spilled and the future generations they obliterated. Their inner anti-Semite may have persisted, but it was inadvisable to utter telltale hints to that effect.
The shifting shapes of anti-Semitism, though, liberated Germans from the moral burdens of the horrific plot to exterminate every single individual of Jewish lineage, down to compulsively hunting for every last hidden Jewish baby. Europe’s new anti-Semitism – the one pro forma directed solely against the Jewish state – made it possible to ditch self-serving postwar circumspection and be free to loath again with the rest of Europe.
This is deluxe loathing that draws its legitimacy from the mock denial of loathing.
Latter-day Judeophobes indignantly rebuff accusations of Judeophobia. To hear them, they aren’t touched by judenhass but preach against the sins they lustfully attribute to the Jewish state. They claim it isn’t an ancient bigotry that atavistically inflames them but the policies of the Jewish collective in Israel.
The Zuckerberg incident indisputably exposes the charade – he isn’t Israeli.
Yet the very fact that Germans now feel free to broadcast their anti-Israelism as boldly as the rest of Europe, allows them to bask in smug ostensible righteousness.
They thereby catapult themselves – in their own eyes obviously – onto the moral high-ground. They had dutifully performed the perfunctory breast-beating, learned to recite standard liberal banalities and, having invested all that effort, feel spotless and irreproachable. They aren’t only vindicated, they are morally superior.
And so, the offspring of arch-murderers (and of greedy robbers, of heartless bureaucrats and of callous know-nothings) haughtily chastise the offspring of the victims (both victims put to unspeakably cruel deaths and victims who survived through unspeakable suffering).
It’s a topsy-turvy world in which Germany can boastfully bond with the supercilious family of nations by having a go at the Jewish state. This in our day is the badge of enlightenment.
By lecturing Israel, Germany can recoup its credentials as a moral force in the world.
The more it berates maliciously maligned Israel, the farther Germany flees from its dark shadows. Accentuating alleged Israeli lapses is good for Germany.
So when Martin Schultz, the German president of the European Parliament, accuses Israel of withholding water from oppressed Palestinians, it matters diddley that he never checked his statistics and that his figures and his conclusions are dead wrong. The nature of mud-slinging is that, once slung, the filth sticks – especially if it’s aimed at hook-nosed demons that Europe can’t detest enough.
But Europe, not to forget, no longer approves of the word hate. Europeans don’t hate. Europeans sermonize with accomplished sanctimony. All Israelis need do is submit to Europe’s unerring wisdom. Otherwise it’s all our fault. Europeans, after all, know what’s best for us and invariably know better than we do. As Schultz averred, with the same affected innocence as Mohr, he is Israel’s best friend.
Such is the current friendship of all too many Germans – unwaveringly at the ready to look down their perfect (and everso virtuous) noses at our existential hangups and ridicule our stereotypically misshapen schnozzles.
We have come a long way since days when Der Stürmer molded German public opinion. But the Zuckerbergs – regardless of their character or achievements and with no relevant link to vilified Israel – are forever first and foremost perceived as Jews. As such, they – regardless of their actual looks – must be accorded that requisite “Jewish nose” to set them apart from Europe’s beautiful people.
www.sarahhonig.com Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.