Another Tack: The German robbed Cossack
The fashionable anti-Israelism of European intellectual salons makes Ahmedinejad’s calls for our extinction palatable.
Gunter Grass Photo: REUTERS
This week in 1903 Shalom Aleichem, the giant of Yiddish literature, wrote a
letter to Leo Tolstoy, the giant of Russian literature. It was shortly after the
gruesome Kishinev pogrom. Shalom Aleichem planned to publish a modest
compilation about the atrocity, to which he asked Tolstoy to contribute a short
message to “Russia’s millions of distraught and disoriented Jews, who more than
anything need a word of comfort.” Tolstoy never so much as bothered to
The famed novelist, feted as the conscience of Russia, received
dozens such letters urging him to speak out against the slaughters – then a
seminal trauma in Jewish annals. The Holocaust was decades away. Nobody 109
years ago could imagine anything more bloodcurdling than the horrors of
But not everyone was moved – not even a renowned humanitarian
Not only did he not speak out, but he resented the
He replied to one Jewish correspondent only, Emanuel
Grigorievich Linietzky, to whom he caustically complained about being pestered.
Tolstoy then blamed the Czar’s government, absolving the masses who bashed the
skulls of babies, gouged children’s eyes, raped their mothers and sisters,
eviscerated them, beheaded men and boys, quartered and mutilated them and looted
all they could carry.
We hear much the same throughout Europe at each
memorial to the Holocaust.
The upgraded, systemized, gargantuan-scale
German sequel to Kishinev was by all accounts committed by unidentified
extraterrestrials called Nazis. All the others, Germans included, were their
But Tolstoy foreshadowed an even more sinister inclination that
would fully and hideously burst upon our scene a century and more after the
Kishinev devastation. The great author and icon of compassion exhorted Russia’s
shaken Jews to behave better.
The implication was that the Jews were
somehow guilty, needed to improve themselves and achieve higher virtue in order
to merit better treatment.
And so wrote Tolstoy to Emanuel Grigorievich:
“The Jews must, for their own good, conduct themselves by the universal
principle of ‘do onto others as you would have them do to you.’ They must resist
the government nonviolently...by living lives of grace, which precludes not only
violence against others, but also the partaking in acts of
Given the background of Eastern Europe’s downtrodden Jewry,
such ’turn-the-other-cheek’ sermons appear chillingly pitiless (to say the
least) because all the Jews had been doing was turning the other cheek. Taken in
a broader context, Tolstoy argued against Jewish self-defense before any
self-defense was actually attempted. Jews, Tolstoy in effect said, share
culpability for their tribulations, must suffer quietly and cannot rise to
Sound familiar? It ought to. It’s exactly what we
keep hearing today from current preachers of goodwill, literary or otherwise.
The more things change the more they sickeningly stay the same.
Günter Grass. Germany’s Nobel laureate for literature has just warned the world
about the danger which the Jewish state poses to global peace and warned that
little Israel is out to no less than exterminate the Iranian people, all 80
million of them. It doesn’t matter that we - including even the loopiest
left-wingers on the outermost fringes of our political spectrum – know that this
is utter drivel.
The last thing on any Israeli’s mind is annihilating
Iranians. We only want to make sure that they don’t nuke our tiny
uber-vulnerable national home.
Too much to ask? When it comes to Jews,
anything is apparently too much.
This is particularly pertinent for us in
the springtime of the year, when we collectively remember the six million who
perished in the very Holocaust in which Grass, by his own candid admission, was
an enthusiastic accomplice.
But his stained personal history clearly
constitutes no incentive to discreet reticence on his part. Like many Europeans,
Grass has lost all shame and the disappearance of shame is the new bon ton among
like-minded genteel Jew-haters.
It’s politically incorrect to even accuse
Grass of thinly disguised anti-Semitism. That instantly turns him into the
muzzled good-guy and us into loathsome Jews seeking to silence yet another
legitimate critic of Israel with their doomsday weapon – charges of
anti-Semitism. Moreover, any remote reference to the Holocaust is sure to elicit
howls of derision.
This diabolical yet prevalent deformation of
perceptions confers on all anti-Semites the freedom to slander, while denying
Jews the right to call a spade a spade.
It’s a foolproof arrangement.
Jew-revulsion now masquerades behind acutely inflammatory anti- Israel and
pro-Arab propaganda, whose disseminators inevitably deny anti-Semitic motives.
Their favorite ploy is to present Israel-bashing as just deserts for the Jewish
Post-Holocaust circumspection has bred cleverly
camouflaged anti-Semitism - not less dangerous or less in-your-face but more
cunning and deceptive.
Most contemporary anti-Semites are remarkably
practiced in accompanying their invective with instant disclaimers – by now an
expected part of the pattern.
Grass is extraordinarily true to
Indeed, he already gets star-billing on a host of Judeophobic
websites, which celebrate him as yet another upstanding and righteous critic of
Israel, an honorable observer pilloried as an anti-Semite in order to suppress
his heartfelt outcry.
Thus Grass becomes the ultimate robbed Cossack in a
rationalized German adaptation of the infamous Russian tradition. Anti-Semites –
whether they specialized in mere pogroms or outright Holocausts – habitually
portrayed themselves as the aggrieved side.
Robbed Cossack Grass actually
volunteered for the barbarous Waffen-SS (branded a “criminal organization” at
the Nuremberg Trials). But what of it?
He has put it all behind him, wiped his
own slate clean and now feels empowered to launch anti-Jewish diatribes at will.
Professing to have propelled himself to a loftier leftist plane, he can reproach
the Jews and, like Tolstoy before him, demand they do nothing to defend
If they do, they become, in Grass’s idiom, “the greatest
danger to the world.” It’s Israel that threatens Iran and not vice versa. By his
criteria, our forebears threatened Egypt’s pharaohs, the Amalekites, the
Assyrians, the Babylonians, Haman’s Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusader
marauders, Muslim conquistadors, Spanish inquisitors, Chmielnicki’s Ukrainian
mass-murderers, Russian pogromchiks, to say nothing of the Germans, whose
fuehrer always screamed hysterically about the danger posed to the world by "the
forces of International Judaism,” compelling him to formulate a “final solution”
to their problem.
FALLACIES OF the sort which spawned the worst tragedies
that befell our nation are still promulgated passionately today. An unbroken
chain of lies links the hounding of Jews throughout the ages, rendering flagrant
fabrications, like Grass’s, ever pertinent.
With mounting disbelief we
witness world callousness toward the Jewish state that arose against all odds
from the ashes of that great Holocaust conflagration. It’s beyond our grasp that
we are vilified while supposed advocates of justice and seekers of peace cosset
Arab/Muslim torchbearers of Nazi genocide.
We can’t comprehend the
hypocrisy. We can’t understand how assorted glitterati and literati perennially
postulate that those who strive to continue what the Nazis failed to finish are
actually the “victims’ victims.” Europe loves to regard Israelis as victimizers
and sympathize with “victimized” Arabs/Iranians/Muslims.
less than mind-blowing that the children of murderers, sadists, collaborators,
bureaucrats, robbers, those who didn’t see, those who didn’t want to know, those
who saw and knew but didn’t act – all now profess to occupy the moral high
ground. They now preach to the children of the slain, gassed, burned, shot,
buried-alive, starved, tortured, degraded, dehumanized, enslaved, dispossessed,
bereaved and orphaned.
How can the moral onus be shifted onto the
victims’ progeny? Easily – if the Holocaust is viewed as a crime without
perpetrators. No occupied country colluded in rounding up and deporting its
Jews. None produced greedy plunderers and collaborators. The occupiers
themselves were a mythical extinct band of no distinct ethnicity, known
generically as Nazis, who methodically hunted hidden Jewish babies.
our topsy-turvy existence nothing is unthinkable. And so descendants of
history’s worst-guys parade as good-guys, while descendants of the most
downtrodden are considered as still woefully deficient of decency.
German friend, Josef H, notes that official reactions in his country to Grass’s
diatribe “were 99% negative.” Nevertheless, he writes, “I admit that I very
rarely meet people who feel that they have to stand up for Israel when
Israeli-Palestinian problems are mentioned. So I normally abstain from using the
word ‘Israel’ in any conversation in order not to set fire to explosive
Josef asked a member of his own extended family what he
thought of the Grass imbroglio. The relative, Josef relates, “a really decent,
reliable, honest man, generally following Christian
principles... answered, without thinking twice about it: ‘Grass is
Such is the climate of opinion around him that Josef requested I not
reveal his surname. Significantly, to his mind, Grass echoes his fervent Nazi
past, deeply rooted in his psyche.
Grass isn’t the only Nobel literature
laureate of such a mind-set. Some, like Britain’s Rudyard Kipling, didn’t even
wax indignant pro forma when accused of anti-Semitism. Kipling unflinchingly
blamed the 1917 Bolshevik revolution on an “international Jewish plot.” In 1919
he backed the publication in the UK of The Protocols of the Elders of
In 1920, Kipling agreed only conditionally to read proofs of the
memoirs of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) prepublication, vowing to return
them if he finds them “pro-Yid.”
Kipling dismissed Einstein’s general
theory of relativity as a component of a comprehensive Jewish conspiracy to
destabilize world order.
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t so. It doesn’t
matter that every Jew knows there’s no Jewish world-domination conspiracy. What
matters is that the Kiplings and their ilk expressed the zeitgeist of their day,
just as Grass now does – regardless of whether his country’s establishment
sanctions his opinion.
The fashionable, respectable anti-Semitism of
European intellectual salons in the early 20th century made the Nazi
persecutions of Jews palatable. The fashionable, respectable
anti-Israelism of European intellectual salons in the early 21st century makes
Ahmedinejad’s calls for our extinction palatable.
And above all hovers
Tolstoy’s sanctimonious spirit which hints that our misconduct is the root cause
of our misfortune.