The cross-pollination of Jew-hatred

German writer Gunter Grass' poem harkened back to classic anti-Semitic motifs.

Gunter Grass 370 (R() (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gunter Grass 370 (R()
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Children and parents are gunned down outside a Jewish day school in Toulouse, France.
A rabbi narrowly escapes several deliberate hit-and-run attempts on the streets of Malmo, Sweden.
Reports of physical violence and hate crimes against Jews in Europe are on the rise again, much of it at the hands of radical Muslims.
Meantime, the increase in verbal incitement against the Jewish people and state is no less troubling. The most outrageous example of late is the poetic dagger of German literary idol Günter Grass.
In a nine-stanza poem titled “What Must Be Said” and published on April 4 in leading newspapers in Germany, Italy and Spain, the aging Grass insisted it was finally time to get something off his chest before he breathed his last. The Nobel laureate in literature accused Israel of planning to strike Iran with its presumed nuclear arsenal fully knowing it “could wipe out the Iranian people.”
He added that Germany would be an accomplice to this unspeakable crime because it is supplying Israel with a Dolphin-class submarine capable of launching atomic warheads.
The broadside sparked an international firestorm. Israeli officials declared Grass persona non grata. Jewish leaders accused him of intentionally timing his criticism for Passover, like so many blood libels of past generations.
Critics also noted that Grass had long ago lost any moral weight by urging Germans to confront their Nazi past while concealing for decades his own membership in the Waffen SS.
Iranian officials, meanwhile, lauded Grass for his “highly responsible” deductions and expressed hopes it “may truly awaken the West’s silent and dormant conscience.”
The Grass poem seemed to push all the wrong buttons in one fell swoop.
First, it indeed harkened back to classic anti-Semitic motifs but under the guise of the “new anti-Semitism” – obsessive vilification of the “collective Jew” in the form of Israel. The traditional anti- Semitism of Christian Europe targeted the Jews as inherently evil. Now, Israel is the primary threat to international peace.
It also smacked of the “conspiratorial Jew” out to control the world or, in this case, to annihilate the Iranian people.
Grass has completely reversed the true nature of the threat by misrepresenting Israel’s specific concerns over Iran’s nuclear facilities while downplaying Iran’s publicly stated ambition to “wipe Israel off the map.”
Unfortunately, his distorted views are shared by many of his fellow Germans. A survey conducted last year found that 48 percent of all Germans believe Israel is conducting a similar “war of extermination” against the Palestinians.
Scholars have concluded that such equating of Israeli actions with the Nazi genocide is a mechanism Germans use to relieve their guilt over the Holocaust by projecting it onto Israel.
Finally, it fit a historic pattern of European anti-Semites exporting their Jew-hatred to the Muslim world. Dr.
Matthias Küntzel and other scholars have documented the flight of Nazi propagandists from Germany to the Middle East, particularly to Damascus and Cairo, after World War II. But the blood libel of Damascus in 1840 shows that the injection of European Christian anti-Semitism into the Arab world goes back at least 100 years earlier.
In that tragic episode, European clergymen assigned to Syrian churches falsely accused eight notable Jews in Damascus of murdering a Christian monk for his blood. They were imprisoned and tortured. Several died of torture, and another converted to Islam to avoid further cruelty. Enraged Muslims also carried out a pogrom against the local Jewish community.
According to the diary of British officer Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict was ignited in the early 1920s by Christian anti-Semites serving in the British administration in Jerusalem, who incited Arabs to riot around Easter/Passover time, based on false rumors of Jewish atrocities. They also elevated Haj Amin el-Husseini to the position of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and symbol of the newborn Palestinian nationalism.
So there is a long tradition of European anti-Semites infecting the Muslim Arabs of the Middle East with their warped loathing of Jews. In the shadow of the Holocaust, no German or European should ever be a part of this again.
Rather, they have a duty to steer Muslims away from drinking out of the same poisonous trough that brought so much shame on Europe.
This cross-pollination of Jew-hatred is patently abhorrent, even when dressed up in couplets and stanzas.