November 18: Dignifying Wagner

With all due respect, people attach Wagner’s political views to his music precisely because he inserted them into his music.

November 17, 2010 23:16

letters 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Dignifying Wagner

Sir, – Yonatan Livni’s spirited defense of Richard Wagner (“Wagner gets his first Israeli fan club,” November 16) is completely lacking in its historical perspective in that Livni only focuses on Wagner’s music.

He quotes his Holocaust survivor father as saying “We don’t listen to Wagner’s political views. What we do is listen to his music.” With all due respect, people attach Wagner’s political views to his music precisely because he inserted them into his music.

I wonder if Livni and his fellow fan club members have ever read Wagner’s Das Judenthum in der Musik or Deutsche Kunst und Deutsche Politik? Having done so, I wonder how anyone can listen to Wagnerian music without connecting it to Wagner’s strident anti-Semitism.

More than this, it must be pointed out that it was Wagner’s music and writings that became part of the cultural and intellectual underpinnings of the Third Reich. Livni’s comment about the need for “a certificate from someone who says that the last survivor has passed away” before there can be a public concert of Wagner’s music in Israel is callous in the extreme and again shortsighted.

He can add my name and those of my friends to those who believe that Wagner’s music should never be performed publicly in Israel.


Sir, – The issue is not whether Wagner was anti-Jewish. He was, and was lauded by Hitler and the Nazis.

The question concerns dignity. The establishment of a Society for Wagner’s music dignifies the music – but also the man. Once established, will it be the first step in rewriting the history of Wagner and the Nazis?


Sir, – Your article reminded me of a good friend who arrived with his sister in England from Vienna as part of a kindertransport a few days after his bar mitzva.

During the war he served with a tank regiment, was wounded in the D-Day landings and, owing to his facility with languages, was seconded to the Intelligence Corps, ending up as commandant of a POW camp for German officers in Alexandria.

The senior officers of the camp came to him in a delegation one day to complain that from morning till night he played Mozart over the public address system. When asked for the reason he told them, “It’s the antidote to Wagner.”


Kudos to ‘Post’

Sir, – I wish to thank The Jerusalem Post for bringing to our attention the proposed postal levy for packages from abroad. It made a difference by making us aware of this outrageous fee.

As true Israelis we protested and spoke up; the MKs heard us and for now there will be no levy (Internet lessons from the Israel Postal Company,” Business & Finance, November 16).

The Israel Postal Company should be able to make money, but not at the expense of the public. Corporations watch their expenses, cutback when necessary – and most of all provide good customer service. A smile would be nice.


Life imitating art

Sir, – As a teacher for some 36 years now, I agree with David Newman (“Educating for tolerance,” Borderline Views, November 16): Education is the key to reconciling differences between people.

Until I read his article, I was unaware that a primary school existed from nursery school to third grade for Jews and Palestinian children. Such an experiment should be implemented in the public school system throughout the country. It is time that Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian children study together. They will comprise the future people inhabiting this region; they will either perpetuate the hatred, mistrust, discrimination and exploitation, or they will mediate their background influences to a more tolerant – and, perhaps, a more accepting – milieu for all to live in peace.

Some five years ago I rented a studio apartment in Jerusalem and wrote a five-act play proposing an experimental senior high school seminar in east Jerusalem for Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. My characters searched for peace in the entire Jerusalem community – Jewish neighborhoods, Arab neighborhoods, and mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhoods.

They found that Jerusalemites were people with human needs, irrespective of their religious, cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Most important, they learned that they lived as a panoply of faces in one another’s arms, the title of my play.

Skokie, Illinois

Good for tourism

Sir, – Archaeologist Antonia Willis’s concerned letter (“Paving over history,” November 16) claims that “by building in the Judean hills and tarmacking swaths of the Negev” we are “damaging” Israel.

However, if roads had not been built, she would be unable to conduct her small groups through Nabatean sites. In addition, many archaeologists long have been rebuilding and preserving the cities, holy sites, ports and infrastructure of our ancient ancestral homeland, including Christian monasteries, forts, churches and holy sites to which Willis also may now securely guide many tourists.


Taking ‘if...then’ to extremes

Sir, – Regarding your article on Baroness Tonge (“British politician: ‘Israel is the root cause of terrorism worldwide,” November 14), the implication is, of course, that without Israel there would be no terrorism. Such nonsense does not even deserve a response, but as she is a peer of Her Majesty’s realm, let us give her the time of day and consider extending her logic.

If we eradicate the Jews there will be no anti-Semitism. If we eradicate all people of color there will be no racial prejudice.

Perhaps it is the same twisted logic that has developed the theory that if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders there will be peace in the Middle East, and if the settlement freeze is extended by another three months everyone will rush to negotiate.

Petah Tikva

Jerusalem paramount

Sir, – Regarding the Elsewhere section in your November 14 issue (“Dishonesty and east Jerusalem”), my wife and I first visited the city in 1964. At that time we sat in the lounge of the King David Hotel and watched the Jordanian guards on the walls of the Old City. A large part of Rehov Mamilla was blocked off by a bullet-riddled wall and there was, of course, no access to the Western Wall.

When I read of the proposal to go back to the “1967 borders,” I visualize Jerusalem going back to the time when we first saw it, and not to the Jerusalem we have known so well for nearly 50 years.

One must remember, too, that Jerusalem was never part of Palestine but was intended by the United Nations to be in an international area. Thus, to talk about reverting to the “1967 borders” must be not only unacceptable but unrealistic, bearing in mind particularly the wonderful developments by Israel since we took over.

I acknowledge that there are parts of east Jerusalem that are substantially Arab and which could be handed over, but there you have the problem of a divided city, which would satisfy no-one.

I sincerely hope that the present government will agree to stop further settlement building on land that is substantially outside Jerusalem, and that it will continue to insist on Israel retaining the whole city as its capital.


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