Friday, February 29, 2008

Holocaust Hoax: An Author Seems to Go on Lying

The woman, about whom I wrote in the previous post, seems to unable to stop lying, even now. Read this analysis of her latest explanation.

What a piece of work.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Holocaust Hoax: An Author Admits She Lied

An author, Misha Defonseca, who claimed that after the Nazis took her parents away, she - at age 7 - wandered across Europe, crossed rivers, was befriended by wolves [wolves?? yup wolves], and managed to survive, has apparently admitted she made the whole thing up.

The European press is full of stories about this as are various American blogs.

Turns out she is not even Jewish. Wilkomirski redux. People like this are beneath contempt.

This woman must really be a true lowlife since she sued her American publisher for not having done enough to make her book a bestseller. She won a $33 million settlement. When have publishers ever done enough???

Here's her publisher's side of the story.


Holocaust Education in the News: Sarkozy's Approach in France, Another in Germany, and Reflections on the UK Rumor

The New York Jewish Week covers the reaction to Sarkosy's proposal, which has been tweaked by his educational advisers.

The New York Times has run a number of stories related to Holocaust education in the past few days.

The lead story in yesterday's Arts section covers a "comic book" used in German schools. [Those who might be skeptical about the use of comic books for this subject should take a look at Maus one of the most powerful books on the topic.]

Susan Dominus, prompted by the Sarkozy proposal, focuses on her own recollections about learning about the topic. It is a reminder of how much Holocaust education has changed. I was excoriated by many people years ago for my article, "Invoking the Holocaust: the Use and Abuse of the Holocaust," which made the same point. "Invoking the Holocaust," Judaism, Vol. 30, No. 119 [1981]

New York Times Education writer, Sam Freeman, writes about the UK rumor about giving up teaching on the Holocaust. The BBC covered this topic on its web page a few weeks ago. Given the persistence of this rumor, it is worth noting that while the notion of a country dropping the topic is absurd, there probably are teachers in the UK, France, and other places who avoid the topic for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the students in their classes come from homes where Holocaust denial is accepted.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

David Irving Gets it Wrong: Again ... What a Hoot

A Google alert just popped up on my computer. It brought me to "Fiery Cross" website which is clearly associated with the KKK. [The picture at left appears on the website.]

The site carries a post from David Irving's website entitled:
Lipstadt: Am I my brother's keeper?

Irving begins with a discussion [quite exaggerated of course] of the Bruges affair. He then goes on to identify Marc Kalmann as my brother. Here's what Irving has to say:

Kalmann is the brother of Atlanta Professor Deborah Lipstadt, and she has gone straight into brother-denial. (Don’t ask us how they come to use different family names: I remember once interviewing Julius Streicher’s son, also a Streicher, for Hard Copy (US television), and him retorting, “We are not the sort of people who change our names.")

Changing names is the kind of things that the Lipstadt’s of this world do more often than others.
He "proves" his point by quoting the post sent to me by Kalmann's brother.

What a joke. Irving can't figure out that I was quoting the brother NOT identifying Marc Kalmann as my brother.

Attempting to paint me as frightened that this news of "my brother", i.e. Marc Kalmann might emerge and

come to my ears, Deborah Lipstadt has rushed to her damage-control panel, groped in the darkness of her own delirium for the button marked “DENIAL!” but pushed the one marked “PANIC” by mistake. The Internet is awash with fun at her expense.

He closes his post by thanking his many friends who brought this to his attention.

Someone must have pointed out to David Irving his colossal mistake because when you go to his website the post is gone.

My thanks to the KKK site for capturing it.

What a hoot. Irving [and his friends] can't even read documents he is not trying to lie about.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama and the Jews

My colleague and friend, Mel Konner, has written a provocative and challenging post about Obama's relationship to Jews and Israel. It's well worth reading.

UK Schools Drop Teaching the Holocaust: A False Story Continues to Make the Rounds

Why do smart people believe utterly incomprehensible things?

The false charge about the Bruges cafe was crazy but had glimmers of plausibility [maybe the waiter acted out.... but would a waiter who acted in that way be employed in such a prestigious place???].

But the rumor that continues to drive me nuts is the crazy one about the UK or, depending which version of this idiocy you have received, the University of Kentucky [some dimwit saw UK and thought it meant the University] dropping all teaching of the Holocaust because it would offend Muslims. For previous blogs on this topic see here

In the past 24 hours a number of smart people have asked me about this rumor. One doubted it was true. The others believed it to be fact.

While I don't doubt that there are teachers in certain school districts in the UK who tip toe around this topic because they are sitting in front of class full of students who have been told it did not happen or who have just been raised to hate Jews.

But to believe that the UK, whose leader, Churchill, rallied the world to fight when only the English Channel stood between Hitler and his country and whose forces liberated camps where they encountered survivors who looked more like cadavers than people, would drop the teaching of this topic..... that's too much.

Last night we had Leon Wieseltier here at Emory. [He spoke on Jews' perspectives on Messianism and was first rate.] A small group of us chatted about this and someone said: "People believe this because they want it to be true. " In some preverse way, that's true.

We sometimes fall into a mindset that convinces us that the world is so against us that the UK or the Univ of Kentucky, take your pick, would do this.

There are hateful people out there. There are people who hate Jews specifically. Among them are those who would wish to do great harm to Jews.

They are out there. There is, therefore, no need to create false enemies in places and situations where there are none.

Fighting real boogey people [a contradiction in terms?] is hard enough.... let's not spend our time on false ones.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The "Incident" at Bruges: Word from "Victim"'s Brother and Some Lessons to be Learned

People have posted comments on the Bruges story in different places on this blog. For those of you who have missed it click here. [Be sure to click on the comments at each post, especially at "About the Blog."]

[Here's a quick summary: Marc Kalmann, who describes himself as a Professor and says he was born in Auschwitz 3 days before it was liberated, says he was in Bruges and tried to have a cup of coffee in a famous cafe on the square. When the waiter saw his kippah he threw him out and said "we don't serve Jews here." Sometime later Kalmann went to the police to report the incident and they would not take a report in English. The story is all over the internet.]

This morning I received the following email from someone who says he is Mr. Kalmann's brother. I believe it is legitimate because it is loving and yet cautionary about the story at the same time.

It is posted at "About this Blog" and I have cut and pasted it below:

Let me quickly shed some light on Marc Kalmann, my brother. He was born in 1948 in Amsterdam and not in Auschwitz in 1945. He lives in the Netherlands and is fluent in Dutch. He lived in the USA for 22 years and was sometimes employed as a teacher of languages at community colleges. He liked the title professor and has used it since. He tends to believe his own fantasies. I love him but I am concerned that his fantasies take over his world. And through the magic of the Internet it is taking the world by storm. I wanted to set some part of the record straight. I have no knowledge of what did or did not happen at the restaurant in Bruges.

To buttress the brother's comments. See Esther's blog about another incident concerning Mr. Kalmann which seemed to have morphed into an antisemitic charge.

My guess -- and it is only that -- is that Professor Kalmann, as he calls himself, had some incident at this cafe over a cup of coffee [which probably did cost an arm and a leg] and it is possible that some antisemitic crack was made. This morphed into the story that "we don't serve Jews here" and that the Bruges police refused to do anything about it.

What happened at the police station is hard to know. Was there a problem with the filing of the story? [Supposedly the police refused to file the report in English.] Does Kalmann speak Flemish or French? He does speak Dutch. Who knows?

So What Can We Learn from This?

It seems pretty clear that it did not happen as originally reported. Which is a lesson to all those who originally reported this story. Even if they are a Jewish media outlet they are obligated to investigate and not simply take the story as told by the "victim."

Maybe it's because of my work on Holocasut denial, but I feel so strongly that, when it comes to antisemitism and other prejudices, if you embellish the truth or, even worse, make a story up you are doing great damage to those who tell the truth.

How long will it be before they too are dismissed as not being truthful?

Sometimes a story can be a fabrication and sometimes it can be an aggrandizement of the truth , sometimes it can be inflated, and sometimes it can be absolute fact.

It is also worth remembering that:
  • Sometimes a woman or a "minority" can be fired from a job because they are incompetent and not because of racism, sexism, or any other ism.
  • Sometimes a Jew can be attacked because it is a random act of violence and not because they are a Jew.
  • Sometimes a woman or a racial or religious minority member can be passed over for a promotion because there really is someone -- read White (usually Anglo-Saxon) male -- who is far far better qualified.
  • And sometimes these things can happen because there is rampant racism, sexism, and antseimitism alive and well in this world.
It's critically important to know when to make a charge of prejudice and when not. And, in this day and age of the internet, it's even more important to know when to believe what you hear and when to be skeptical and ask more questions.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sarkozy Debate Roils French Jewish Community

The plan announced by Sarkozy has left the French Jewish community reeling.

JTA and Haaretz [Among Others] Owe Us an Explanation on Supposed Antisemitic Incident in Belgium

Last week I posted a comment about an apparent antisemitic incident in Bruges, Belgium. It reported that an American professor had been thrown out of a famous cafe because he wore a kippah.

To add insult to injury, when he went to the police to report the incident the police refused to take the report in English.

Then serious question began to be raised about exactly what happened. The cafe owner said that this was NOT how the incident proceeded but that there had been a dispute about the cost of the cup of coffee.

I had some questions about the incident and expressed my reservations but still posted it without checking further. My mistake.

Then an energetic correspondent, Dan, began to barrage me with emails which are posted here both at the original story [which is no longer there] and at "About this Blog" suggesting I check further. He was right.

A number of sites, have removed the post. Others including YeshivahWorld News have posted the response of the cafe. The cafe argues that it was about the price of the coffee. If so, then the man could not have been thrown out, since he obviously was served the coffee.

This morning I checked and the original story is all over the internet.

Since both JTA and Haaretz were the prime English language sources for this story, they should be doing some checking and, if not true, issue a retraction.

There are enough real incidents of antisemitism around that we do not need to be reacting to incidents which are not real.

Sarkozy's Thoughtless Plan: continued

Simone Veil, herself a Holocaust survivor and a former President of the European Parliament, has unequivocally condemned Sarkozy's scheme for teaching about the Holocaust.

She told L'Express that "her blood turned to ice" when she heard about this idea. Veil, as honorary chairwoman of honour of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.

This is simply NOT how education is done on any topic, much less one as complex and difficult as the Holocaust.

Sarkozy's response to the criticism has been: "We don't traumatize children by giving them the present of a country's memory."

He seems not to understand that certain presents are appropriate for 10 year old children and certain are not.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

LimmudLA: Bravo

[posted from LAX where I arrived absurdly early for my flight]:

Just left LimmudLA. Great job by an array of volunteers. Good conversation. Good learning. Good spirit. Great people. Bad coffee.

Bravo to all those who made it happen.

If you are in the LA area put it on your calendar for next year.

French Pesident Sarkozy Gets Involved in Holocaust Education: What a Mess

French President Sarkozy seems to have arbitrarily decided that every child in France should study the story of one of the 11,000 French Jewish children killed during the Holocaust.

Now first let it be stated that the French have a dismal history regarding the Holocaust. When you look at pictures of the roundups in France search for a picture of a German official participating in this shameful act. You won't find one. It was all conducted by French.

For years after the Holocaust France refused to confront this aspect of its collaborationist history. So it should be refreshing to learn of a French leader such as Sarkozy breaking with that tradition and ordering this educational reform.

However from the news stories I have read it seems that this was done without forethought, planning, or consultation. Nor am I at all convincd that this is the best way for a child to fully understnad what happened. Can a child at age 10 really grasp this? I don't think Jewish kids aged 10 should be engaged in such a project. How much more so a French kid....

The announcement was further complicated by the fact thqt Sarkozy 'wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion,' he blamed the wars and violence of the last century on an “absence of God” and calling the Nazi belief in a hierarchy of races “radically incompatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism.”

All that this does is thrust Holocaust education, which must be handled professionally and not politically and certainly not in this haphazard fashion, into a debate not of its own making.

What a mess and what an unnecessary one.

Friday, February 15, 2008

[More Ron Paul] Neo-Nazi LIsted as Paul Delegate

Link repaired Friday 2/15/08 4:47 PST

Adam Holland blogs that a neo-Nazi leader appeared on the Tennessee Republican primary ballot on Ron Paul's slate of delegates.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

[More Politics] Gutter Level Sexism and Other Smear Tactics

This is the front page of the New York Post the day after Obama swept the recent primaries. Women of a certain age will know that "wham bam" comes from "Wham bam, thank you Ma'am," the statement made by a guy after having quick sex with a woman and then standing up and leaving. Simply put the headline says [and pardon my language but this is an accurate translation of the headline]: Hillary got F***Ked.

It's another example of the way in which the press denigrates her as a woman.

Thanks to my friend Myra Weiss for catching this reference. [She saw it on television no less!]

Meanwhile Fox radio commentator Tom Sullivan ran side by side comparisons of a speech by Obama and Adolf Hitler. This is absolutely disgusting. Sullivan thought the whole thing was terribly amusing.

Both these actions should be roundly .condemned.

Which one do you think will be?

Avowed Antisemitic and White Supremacist Professor [Kevin McDonald] Back in the News*

Inside Higher Education has a long article on Kevin McDonald, the California State University Long Beach professor who testified for David Irving [of his own volition and not because of a subpoena] and made such a pathetic impression on the judge and just about everyone else in the courtroom [with the exception of Irving's supporters] is back in the news.

McDonald's performance was so ridiculous that my wonderful and very wise barrister, Richard Rampton, did not even bother to cross examine him.

McDonald's views which are unquestionably antisemitic and racist are an anathema to his colleagues. Yet the university has never condemned them or expressed any criticism of them. For previous posts on McDonald see here. It documented his long association with virulently racist and antisemitic entities.

Last year McDonald was the subject of an in-depth report by the Southern Poverty Law Center under the title Promoting Hate

Ironically the university is hosting a group of scholars, documentary producers, and genocide survivors for the President’s Forum on International Human Rights, which is focused on modern genocides and society’s responsibility to prevent them.

I wonder if McDonald is going to show up. He could be a prime piece of evidence of how hate can be dressed up in academic garb.

*I put McDonald's name in brackets because that is how I think of him, i.e. as a sort of cipher.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More on the Italian Posting of Names of Professors

I have just learned from Emanuele Ottolenghi, the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Institute and one of the people whose name and affiliation was posted on the Italian website, that most of the 162 names on the list were not names of Jewish people.

He described many of them as "very pious Catholics," who were appalled by the notion of a boycott of Jewish academics.

But these are distinctions which are lost on antisemites.

More Disturbing News from the European Scene: Jewish Tourist Ejected from Brussels Cafe for Being Jewish

Updated: 2/18-19
Story removed because it seems that this incident did not happen as originally reported. I had some doubts and had written,
"If this report is accurate, then it is extremely disturbing. " Then later in the post I wrote, "the Belgium incident, if it happened as reported, occurred in a well known and prestigious place."

Thanks to a very energetic correspondent, Dan, who sent me this information. For more of Dan's legwork go to "About this Blog" under my picture above or click here. Quite impressive on his part. I should have followed up on my suspicions. I am glad he did.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One of the Italian Professors shares her feelings about being listed

In the previous post I reported how 150 [actually it's 162] professors had been listed on a neo-Nazi website. Friends of mine received the following letter from one of them. It personalizes what, otherwise, might just be a scary news story.

[The good news, of course, is that the Italian minister of higher education has denounced the list. In his statement he recalled the 1938 law which barred Jews from teaching at Italian universities.]

Donatella Ester Di Cesare is a professor of philosophy at Università di Roma "Sapienza." Last semester she was a visiting professor at Penn State University. For more on her work and publications you can visit her bi-lingual website

She asks for a ' word" or "gesture" of solidarity. Her email is


Dear students, dear colleagues, dear friends,

Many of you, in Italy and abroad, might already know that yesterday in a neo-Nazi blog, appeared on the Web site “il cannocchiale”, has been published a list of Jewish professors labelled as “Jewish lobby” that would monopolize Italian universities. The names in the list are about 160 (some are not Jews). The Web site has been shut down yesterday by the Italian Postal Police under initiative of the Minister of Interior Amado. At the same time, the Minister of University and Research has self-represented.

The professors stigmatized in the list are accused of being Jews, of being Zionists, of being philo-Israeli, of living in Italy while obeying, instead, to a “sovranational community”, namely Israel, and hence of corrupting young people. The list was surrounded by slogans inciting to boycott Israel, but also to “boycott the Jewish community”. The distance is after all short.

I would have never thought to see my name in a list like that, or rather I would have never imagined to see a suchlike list in my life, and let alone in Italy. For a while I thought I was reading a report of the 30’s. But next to mine there were many other names, of friends and of colleagues I know.

Unfortunately the political and cultural climate in Italy has already degenerated quite a long time ago. For those who live abroad this is hardly presumable. All that went with the controversies around the Turin International Book Fair, around the “boycott of Israel”, invited to take part in it on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel, is a clear sign.

The new anti-Semitism comes from afar but, precisely, is rather new. It nourishes itself on the Middle East Conflict, it sternly profits from the tragedy of two peoples. Who goes along with the boycott of Israel has to take his responsibilities, has to be conscious of the effects it produces.

The hate once directed against Jews is now addressed against the state of Israel, which has become the pariah state, the symbol of any evil in the world. The Jews, “celebrated” as victims on the Remembrance Day, become the day after the Israeli “executioners”.

The accusations addressed against the Jewish professors in the neo-Nazi site are eloquent.

The recent positions of the Catholic Church, which respond in no way to the ideas and to the feelings of the Catholics, and, above all, the last declarations of Pope Benedict XVI, his reactionary initiatives (for instance the one to restore the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews) do not help the dialogged at all.

On the contrary, they have contributed, and still contribute, to creatin rg a climate of a useless and harmful hostility and contraposition.

It is not even a chance that the ones to be addressed are university professors – in particular those from Università di Roma "Sapienza." The aggression towards intellectuals is the first sign of the savagery.

We ask your solidarity. A word, a gesture could be important. We have learned it from history. I send you this letter to let you know so that you can inform friends and colleagues.

Monday, February 11, 2008

This is scary: A posting on the Internet of 150 Jewish professors in Itlay with addresses

A blogger in Italy posted a list of 150 Jewish professors together with their addresses. After numerous protests it was removed. It may have been the work of one or a couple of kooks. But getting 150 names and addresses.... that's not a friendly act.

The bell tolls once again: Tom Lantos, Member of House of Representatives and Holocaust Survivor, is dead

Tom Lantos the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress died today at the age of 80. We traveled together to the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 2005. He was a remarkable man who, among other things, helped push the Armenian genocide resolution through the House of Representatives. He will be greatly missed.

Here is the Washington Post obit.

My favorite Lantos moment was when he told YAHOO executives that "morally you are pygmies"
for having acceded to Chinese demands that they identify certain YAHOO account holders who were engaged in what the Chinese government considered seditious activities.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ask not for whom the bell tolls: The death of Charles Fernley Fawcett

You probably read the title of this post and wondered "Charles Fernley Fawcett? Who's that? And why the rather melodramatic heading of 'for whom the bell tolls'?"

Charles Fernley Fawcett worked with Varian Fry [another too little known name] after the fall of France in 1940 to get desperate refugees out of the country. Many made their way to the United States where, in addition to finding refuge, they changed the face of American and, ultimately, all of Western culture.

Among the people saved by Fry with Fawcett's help were
Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Jacques Lipchitz, Heinrich Mann, Franz Werfel, Alma Mahler Werfel, André Breton, Victor Serge, André Masson, Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Heiden, Hannah Arendt.

For more on Fawcett you can go to the page the Varian Fry Institute. You will also learn there about the forthcoming documentary by Pierre Sauvage who did the compelling documentary [a must see] on Le Chambon, Weapons of the Spirit.

Often this blog devotes space to characters who do no good and who do much bad. It's nice to devote space, even at this sad moment, to someone who did so much good.

When he is buried in London the bells will be tolling for all of us, given how he risked his life to do good. May his memory be for a blessing.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

[More on politics]: MSNBC Reporter despicable attack on Chelsea [yes Chelsea] Clinton

According to today's NYTimes, a MSNBC reporter David Shuster has been suspended for saying that Chelsea Clinton had been "pimped out" to her mother's campaign when she had been used to make phone calls on her behalf. [I put Shuster's name in bold because I hope -- but don't believe -- that this incident will follow him around for the rest of his professional days.]

This comes after Chris Matthews, of the same network, said that Senator Clinton's career was only made possible by her husband's philandering.

To use the term "pimped out" suggests that the media has gotten the message that sexist comments when it comes to Clinton related matters are OK. Shuster got suspended. He should have been fired. Anyone who can say such a thing shows a decided lack of judgment. I would not want him on my team.

This incident echoes Stanley Fish's comments on the campaign which I discussed in the previous post. Criticizing Chelsea Clinton in the most misogynist way possible for working on behalf of her mother is OK. But other nominee's children get a free pass. No one criticized Mitt Romney's sons for working on their dad's behalf, [until their father justified the fact that none of them were in the armed forces by saying that they were serving their country by working on his campaign. ]

Michele Obama tells the AP, when they asked if she would support Clinton if she got the nomination, that she "would have to think about it." No one -- except some bloggers -- says a word. Imagine if Bill Clinton had said that about Obama.... All hell would have broken out.

Oh yes Shuster issued a statement apologizing for his sexist comments. It is blatantly transparent that he doesn't believe it. If he did, he never would have said such a thing to begin with. Here's his statement:
“All Americans should be proud of Chelsea Clinton, and I’m particularly sorry that my language diminished the regard and respect she has earned from all of us and the respect her parents have earned in how they raised her.”
I apologize for this second digression into politics but the irrationality and unfairness of these attacks [and I am not talking about criticizing her policies, her record, or anything else of substance] so remind me of prejudicial attacks, including -- but not limited of course to -- those on Israel and on Jews.

Saul Friedmander's The Years of Extermination: a true magnum opus

I have previously mentioned Saul Friedmander's latest book The Years of Extermination. It appeared in English last May [it appeared in a German edition late in 2006]. I have recently returned to it in anticipation of a class I will be teaching. Looking at it again convinces me that I should say more about it.

It is overpowering. It is an all encompassing work of history that is not afraid of touching the reader. It is never overstated. In fact its strength comes from its understatement.

Friedlander also demonstrates how synthesis, in the hands of a brilliant historian, can be art. He cites the work of numerous other historians but does so in a way that gives added insight and depth to their works. On occasion, simply by adding a sentence of his own, he gives important context to what they have already done.

His use of memoirs, letters, and personal stories is also masterful.

For Prof. Dan Diner's fine review of this work click here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Jan Gross' Fear: excellent summary and analysis of Polish reactions to Gross' book

An excellent summary of the issues ignited by the publication of Jan Gross' book, Fear, about which I have blogged and which I reviewed, has appeared in the Frankfurter Rundschau on January 18, 2008. It can be read here in English.

Here is my review from Publishers Weekly which appeared when the hardback was published. I have commented on this blog that I may have overstated the case a bit, in condemning Poland as a "nation" in this review:
Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Deborah E. Lipstadt

Rarely does a small book force a country to confront some of the more sordid aspects of its history. Jan T. Gross's Neighbors did precisely that. Gross exposed how in 1941 half the Polish inhabitants of the town of Jedwabne brutally clubbed, burned and dismembered the town's 1,600 Jews, killing all but seven.

The book was greeted with a terrible outcry in Poland. A government commission determined that not only did Gross get the story right but that many other cities had done precisely the same thing.

Now Gross has written Fear, an even more substantial study of postwar Polish anti-Semitism. This book tells a wartime horror story that should force Poles to confront an untold—and profoundly terrifying—aspect of their history. Fear relates, in compelling detail, how Poles from virtually all segments of society persecuted the poor, emaciated and traumatized Holocaust survivors.

Those who did not actually participate in the persecution, e.g., Church leaders and Communist officials, refused to use their influence to stop the pogroms, massacres and plundering of the Jews. The Communists used the anti-Semitism to consolidate their rule. Church leaders justified the blood libel charges.

Even Polish historians have either ignored or tried to justify this anti-Semitism. Gross builds a meticulous case. He argues that this postwar persecution is "a smoking gun," which proves that during the war Poles not only acquiesced but, in many cases, actively assisted the Nazis in their persecution of the Jews. Had they been appalled by Germany's policies toward the Jews or tried to help the victims, Poles could never have engaged in such virulent anti-Semitism in the postwar period.

Gross notes that when the Germans were trying to put down the Warsaw ghetto uprising, Poles—including children—not only cheered as Jewish snipers were spotted and killed but gleefully showed the Germans where Jews were hiding. Those Poles who helped Jews were often persecuted or even killed by their neighbors.

I am troubled by references to "Polish death camps." They were not Polish death camps but camps the Germans placed in Poland. I have taken even stronger issue with the opinion voiced by many Jews that the "Poles were as bad as—and maybe worse than—the Germans."

I argue that while there was a strong tradition of anti-Semitism in Poland, Poles never tried to murder Jews in a systematic fashion.

After reading Fear, the next time I hear someone say the Poles were as bad as the Germans, I will probably still challenge that charge —after all the damage wrought by the Germans cannot be compared to what the Poles did—but my challenge will be far less forceful. I may even keep silent.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Stanley Fish nails it: "Hillary hatred" is just like antisemitism

I have, by and large, kept this blog free of political matters. [I did blog about Ron Paul's antisemitism and racism.] The past few weeks I have been marveling [depressingly so] about the attacks on Hillary Clinton.

They ranged from comments about her dress, ankles, laugh, and singing ability. She's too liberal. She's too much of a hawk. She cries in public. She doesn't show emotions.

Even the noted and well-respected [deservedly so] commentator, David Gergen, spent time talking about the "shrillness" of her voice.

When I wondered has ANYONE talked about a male candidate's dress, voice, laugh or any other personal characteristic?

Then there were the comments that she is "too political." Well how, I wondered, could one get to this point in American political life without being "political"? Do you really think Barack Obama could be running for President after just arriving in the senate were he not a savvy politician?

Then this morning I read Stanley Fish's New York Times blog about Hillary hatred. As I read I rejoiced. He articulated exactly what I had been feeling for these past weeks.

He nails it in the final paragraph when he notes that the attacks on her are just like antisemitism, they are irrational in the extreme. That does not mean you can't criticize her. Of course you can. It's the contradictory nature of the attacks which are striking and which illustrate they have nothing to do with reality.

Antisemitism is equally contradictory in nature [Jews are leftists, Jews are capitalists; Jews are pushy and work themselves into places they don't belong, Jews stick together and don't mix with others...and so on and so forth].

As I have said here before antisemitism and, for that matter, racism are prejudices. The etymology of the word tells it all: pre-judge, i.e. don't confuse me with the facts I have already made up my mind.

And so it is with antisemitism, racism, sexism, and, now, Hillary-ism.

All You Need Is Hate

Stanley Fish
February 3, 2008

I have been thinking about writing this column for some time, but I have hesitated because of a fear that it would advance the agenda that is its target. That is the agenda of Hillary Clinton-hating.

Its existence is hardly news — it is routinely referred to by commentators on the present campaign and it has been documented in essays and books — but the details of it can still startle when you encounter them up close. In the January issue of GQ, Jason Horowitz described the world of Hillary haters, many of whom he has interviewed. Horowitz finds that the hostile characterizations of Clinton do not add up to a coherent account of her hatefulness. She is vilified for being a feminist and for not being one, for being an extreme leftist and for being a “warmongering hawk,” for being godless and for being “frighteningly fundamentalist,” for being the victim of her husband’s peccadilloes and for enabling them. “She is,” Horowitz concludes, “an empty vessel into which [her detractors] can pour everything they detest.” (In this she is the counterpart of George W. Bush, who serves much the same function for many liberals.)

This is not to say that there are no rational, well-considered reasons for opposing Clinton’s candidacy. You may dislike her policies (which she has not been reluctant to explain in great detail). You may not be able to get past her vote to authorize the Iraq war. You may think her personality unsuited to the tasks of inspiring and uniting the American people. You may believe that if this is truly a change election, she is not the one to bring about real change.

But the people and groups Horowitz surveys have brought criticism of Clinton to what sportswriters call “the next level,” in this case to the level of personal vituperation unconnected to, and often unconcerned with, the facts. These people are obsessed with things like her hair styles, the “strangeness” of her eyes — “Analysis of Clinton’s eyes is a favorite motif among her most rabid adversaries” — and they retail and recycle items from what Horowitz calls “The Crazy Files”: she’s Osama bin Laden’s candidate; she kills cats; she’s a witch (this is not meant metaphorically).

But this list, however loony-tunes it may be, does not begin to touch the craziness of the hardcore members of this cult. Back in November, I wrote a column on Clinton’s response to a question about giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. My reward was to pick up an e-mail pal who has to date sent me 24 lengthy documents culled from what he calls his “Hillary File.” If you take that file on faith, Hillary Clinton is a murderer, a burglar, a destroyer of property, a blackmailer, a psychological rapist, a white-collar criminal, an adulteress, a blasphemer, a liar, the proprietor of a secret police, a predatory lender, a misogynist, a witness tamperer, a street criminal, a criminal intimidator, a harasser and a sociopath. These accusations are “supported” by innuendo, tortured logic, strained conclusions and photographs that are declared to tell their own story, but don’t.

Compared to this, the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry was a model of objectivity. When the heading of a section of the “Hillary File” reads “Have the Clintons ever murdered anyone?” — and it turns out to be a rhetorical question like “Is the Pope Catholic?” — you know that you’ve entered cuckooland.

Horowitz warns that as the campaign heats up, this “type of discourse will likely not stay on the fringes for long,” and he predicts that some of it will be made use of by Republican operatives. But he is behind the curve, for the spirit informing it has already made its way into mainstream media. Respected political commentators devote precious network time to deep analyses of her laugh. Everyone blames her for what her husband does or for what he doesn’t do. (This is what the compound “Billary” is all about.) If she answers questions aggressively, she is shrill. If she moderates her tone, she’s just play-acting. If she cries, she’s faking. If she doesn’t, she’s too masculine. If she dresses conservatively, she’s dowdy. If she doesn’t, she’s inappropriately provocative.

None of those who say and write these things is an official Hillary Clinton-hater (some profess to like and admire her), but they are surely doing the group’s work.

One almost prefers an up-front hater (although he tells Horowitz that he doesn’t like the word) like Dick Morris, who writes in a recent New York Post op-ed of the Clintons’ “reprehensible politics of personal destruction” (does he think he’s throwing bouquets?), and accuses them of invading the privacy of opponents, of blackmailing and threatening women, and of “whatever slimy tactics they felt they needed.” Morris calls Harold Ickes, a Clinton aide, a “hit man” for the president, and he calls the president “Hillary’s hit man.”

This is exactly the language of the most vicious anti-Hillary Web sites, and here it is baptized by its appearance in a major newspaper.

Horowitz observes that there is an “inexhaustible fertile market of Clinton hostility,” but that “the search for a unifying theory of what drives Hillary’s most fanatical opponents is a futile one.” The reason is that nothing drives it; it is that most sought-after thing, a self-replenishing, perpetual-energy machine.

The closest analogy is to anti-Semitism. But before you hit the comment button, I don’t mean that the two are alike either in their significance or in the damage they do. It’s just that they both feed on air and flourish independently of anything external to their obsessions. Anti-Semitism doesn’t need Jews and anti-Hillaryism doesn’t need Hillary, except as a figment of its collective imagination. However this campaign turns out, Hillary-hating, like rock ‘n’ roll, is here to stay.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Brits believe Churchill a myth and Sherlock Holmes is real

According to a poll conducted in Britain, close to a quarter of Brits think Churchill was a myth but over 50% of them think Sherlock Holmes was real. I have no idea how the poll was conducted or if it is really reliable. It does make one pause.

Iranian TV Show on Holocaust [cont.]

I have blogged about this, but for those who want to read more here is a link to a review which appeared in the LA Jewish Journal about the Iranian TV show which supposedly was a response to Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial.