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A Deliberate Campaign to Bash Israel: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2013—The first, most important thing to understand about the Western and especially American debate on Israel is this: Never before in history has there been such a concerted, systematic and vicious campaign to discredit and demonize Israel, and especially to undermine its support in the Jewish community.
Dark Counterpoint: Anti-Semitism in Western Music: David Nirenberg, The New Republic, Dec. 31, 2012—A review of: The Music Libel Against the Jews, Ruth HaCohen, Yale University Press —The idea that Jewish music (or noise) was un-harmonious, insincere, manipulative, materialistic, or in some other way morally and spiritually dangerous: this idea helped to produce (and was also produced by) the Western musical tradition.
Jewish Life Through an Arab Lens: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 26, 2013—Two film companies – one Egyptian, the other Qatari – are producing a pair of controversial productions that focus on Jewish communities that once lived in the Arab world. Amir Ramses, an Egyptian filmmaker, has directed a documentary titled Jews of Egypt, which is scheduled for release in cinemas in Cairo early next month.
Henninger: Hollywood Forgets 9/11: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 20, 2013
Morocco’s Jews Being Remembered Once More: Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2013
No Way Out: Barry Shaw, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2013
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2013
The first, most important thing to understand about the Western and especially American debate on Israel is this: Never before in history has there been such a concerted, systematic and vicious campaign to discredit and demonize Israel, and especially to undermine its support in the Jewish community. Without comprehending this fact, the massive attacks from academia, mass media, organizations and even in mainstream political and intellectual debate cannot be understood.
In other words, we aren’t dealing with lots of mistakes, but with the mass-production of hate speech.
These assaults cannot be taken as isolated incidents. While some are obviously outrageous – the British politician accusing Israel of genocide; a cartoon showing Ariel Sharon eating Palestinian children; Egypt’s president calling Jews sub-humans; the Swedish newspaper claiming Israel murders Palestinians to steal their organs – even the better-constructed items are equally fallacious.
Not all are aware, of course, of what they are doing. There are dupes as well as demonizers, but the dupes often seem all too credulous to be wholly innocent. Equally, there are so many lies – new ones appear each day – and so many facts to counter them with that it is partly a waste of time to counter each offensive in itself. What’s necessary is to understand that this is all based on lies, ignorance and conscious bad faith.
The categories include, but are not limited to: falsification of photographs and fabrication of events; distortion of history; invention of quotes; publishing disproportionate numbers of anti-Israel books and articles; indoctrination in schools; refusal to mainstream Israeli views and placing an overwhelming emphasis on radical, critical ones; giving excessive credibility to hostile sources’ outlandish tales (a worldwide story on an alleged, since proven false massacre in Jenin based on a single mysterious informant is just one example).
There is also the creation of new categories of sin designed specifically as part of the anti- Israel campaign and applied only to Israel, i.e., “pinkwashing” (mistreatment of gays in a country that is among the world’s most open), or disproportionate use of force in wartime.
Besides the obsession and double standards are the eagerness, uncontrollable hatred, self-righteousness, unconcern for fairness or balance, and passion that reveal the hidden agenda of those involved. They are indifferent to real war crimes, intolerance and oppression by others in the world. Their behaviour should have destroyed their credibility, but they are protected instead.
This campaign’s intensity and one-sidedness has relatively little effect on the actual Middle East situation or on Western government policies. The main goal is to portray Israel as responsible for the lack of peace, just as Jews were historically blamed by those hostile to them for anti-Semitism. Since the experience of the 1993-2000 “peace process” era, the fact that the conflict continues because of the intransigence of Israel’s enemies should have been obvious. Yet this history has been forgotten and its impact on Israeli thinking buried or censored.
Much of the new antagonism stems from the Western intelligentsia’s sharp turn to the Left. The question, of course, is why Israel in particular is such a prominent issue among the many causes available to them. What is important is not so much to define specific things as “anti-Semitic” – which generates distracting debates – but to explicate the creation of a situation equivalent in effect to pre-1945 anti-Semitism. Since about 40 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel and most of the rest support Israel, the resulting slander and demonization is also a slur and hatred against the vast majority of Jews. The irrationality, obsession, intimidation and slander are quite equivalent to what Jews suffered under historic anti-Semitism.
Israel, Israelis and their supporters are portrayed – as in classical anti-Semitism – as irrational creatures involved in incomprehensible behavior. Removing from public consciousness their experiences, attitudes and sufferings leaves the conclusion that their behavior is evil, racist, bloodthirsty and power-hungry. For example, as a country under assault, Israel has to act militarily at times. The army and government have no interest in wasting credibility and resources by injuring Palestinians for fun or out of pure meanness. Yet this is how Israeli behavior is often portrayed.
Similarly, Israel has lots to gain from peace since, if secure and lasting, it would provide such benefits as fewer deaths, less time and money going to the military, beneficial trade with neighbors and higher living standards, etc. To believe Israel doesn’t want peace is to believe it is aggressive and has devious ends. And again, if Israel really doesn’t face an existential threat – or only an easily defused one – then its acting otherwise constitutes psychotic behavior.
A major and new theme of this campaign is to convince American Jews that either Israel has become illegitimate or must be bashed for its own good. Undeniably, this campaign has enjoyed success on that front….While what we have here on the surface seems like disproportionate insanity, it is actually ideologically consistent and politically motivated. The result is an environment in which the virulently anti-Semitic, genocidal, anti-Christian, anti-American and pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood is the beneficiary of apologetics while Israel is “bad.”…
One comforting thing about this campaign is that its activists so often having to resort to lies and exaggeration shows how little genuine material they possess. How much effect is this all having in the real world? Ironically, it is less damaging to Israel itself (attempts at economic boycotts, for example, have yielded no real damage) than to Western Jews who live in the societies so affected. The growing pressure will result in some running for cover – or even joining the assailants – but far more will ultimately wake up.
DARK COUNTERPOINT: ANTI-SEMITISM IN WESTERN MUSIC
The New Republic, Dec. 31, 2012
(A review of: The Music Libel Against the Jews, Ruth HaCohen, Yale University Press)
In November 1934, Privy Councilor Wilhelm Furtwängler, vice president of the Third Reich’s Music Chamber and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, imprudently took to the pages of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung to defend the composer Paul Hindemith against the charge of “Jewishness” with which Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister for propaganda and enlightenment of the people, had justified a prohibition on the performance of his work. Yes, Furtwängler admitted, Hindemith had played viola alongside Jewish musicians in the Amar Quartet, but whatever performances he might have given alongside Jews after the Nazis’ rise to power were purely the result of contractual obligation, not sympathy or affinity. And yes, he had on occasion produced works of questionable taste, such as music for the one-act play Murder, the Hope of Women, but these were un-representative juvenilia. “If one were to attempt a profile of the composer Hindemith on the basis of his works,” wrote the famed conductor, “one would have to characterize him as decidedly of the ‘German’ type. His genealogy is, after all, purely Germanic. And the solid craftsmanship and sterling native quality of his work are entirely German, as is the modesty and reserve manifest even in his infrequent emotional outbursts.”
Goebbels responded before a crowd of thousands in Berlin’s sports stadium. According to the account in the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger of December 7, 1934, the State Orchestra, conducted by Peter Raabe, opened the event with strains of Beethoven. These introduced an actor’s recitation of Hitler’s words from Mein Kampf on the subject of art and the Volk. Then more music, this time Hans Pfitzner’s “From the German Soul.” (Pfitzner would himself soon come under suspicion of “Jewishness,” for his collaboration with the Jewish conductor Bruno Walter, and for his unwillingness to provide a replacement for the “Jewish” Mendelssohn’s score to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) And after this orchestrated preface Goebbels stepped up to the podium to thundering cries of “Germany Awake!” and rendered his verdict: Hindemith is an “atonal” noisemaker who, motivated by materialism, composed “lurid strains of dissonance … with complete musical ineptitude…. We are vehemently opposed to seeing this type of artist identified as German. As far as we are concerned, the fact that his heritage is of pure Germanic blood is more dramatic evidence of the festering depths to which the Jewish-intellectual infection has already penetrated the body of our Volk.” Hindemith remained proscribed, and Furtwängler resigned (or was fired) from his post.
The Hindemith Affair is not mentioned in Ruth HaCohen’s remarkable book, perhaps because none of the principals involved were actually Jewish. But it does provide a striking confirmation, even an extension, of the book’s important thesis: that Western music, both Christian and Classical, developed in relation—often in negative relation—to ideas about Jews and their music. The idea that Jewish music (or noise) was un-harmonious, insincere, manipulative, materialistic, or in some other way morally and spiritually dangerous: this idea helped to produce (and was also produced by) the Western musical tradition.
My formulation of HaCohen’s argument is a simplification, even an impoverishment, of her thinking and erudition. When I refer to ideas about Jews and music, she would add that she is not talking only about ideas, but also about real Jews and real Jewish music. Indeed, one of the many virtues of her book is its demonstration of elements of “dialogue” and “reciprocity” between the music of Jews and non-Jews in Europe from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Moreover, my speaking of “Western music” in the abstract overlooks the extraordinary sympathy with which this musicologist analyzes the individual subjectivity of her protagonists, who include composers such as Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, writers such as Heine and George Eliot, and even literary and musical characters, such as Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, Wagner’s Parsifal, and Schoenberg’s Moses.
But my simplified formulation does have this advantage: it stresses that although “the music libel against the Jews” is a way of thinking about both Jews and music, the one need not correspond to the other. The “Jewishness” of a musical work or a musician does not necessarily spring from the “real” Judaism of the piece or its creator, as the case of Hindemith reminds us. It stems rather from a Christian system of thought that understands certain kinds of human activity in the world as “Jewish.”
That system of thought has a very long history. It is evident already in one of the earliest Christian texts, Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. In that letter and in others that followed, the apostle to the gentiles taught Jesus’s followers to criticize circumcision and other attachments to what he called law, letter, and flesh as “Judaizing.” (That term, which gained world-historical significance, is from Galatians 2:14.) Early Christians applied this logic to many different kinds of activities, including music. This is not to say that they always agreed. For some Church Fathers, music was too sensual and carnal for the Christian, whereas others placed it at the center of Christian devotion. Precisely what was considered “Jewish” was open for debate, and changed with time, place, and the individual thinker. But what remained constant was the possibility of representing “incorrect” engagements with the world as “Jewish.” As the poet George Herbert put it in 1633, “He that doth love, and love amisse,/This worlds delights before true Christian joy,/Hath made a Jewish choice/… and is a Judas-Jew.”
One consequence of this way of thinking is that every Christian is potentially “Jewish.” Since no one in this world can do entirely without letters, laws, or things of the flesh, no one is entirely immune to the charge of Judaizing. This universal weakness had the effect of transforming “Judaizing” into a key term of Christian critique, a term that lost none of its power in the more secular languages of modernity. When Marx claimed in 1844 that so long as society continued to depend upon money and private property, it would “continue to produce Judaism from its own entrails,” he was exploiting the logic of “Judaizing.” Goebbels was exploiting the same potential a hundred years later, when he condemned Hindemith and Pfiztner as “Jewish” musicians, and Picasso and Otto Dix as “Jewish” painters. The vast majority of the capitalists Marx criticized as “Jewish,” like the vast majority of the artists the Nazis classified in those terms, were not Jewish, either religiously or “racially.”
Of course “Jew” and “Judaism” do correspond to a professed religion. There were composers who were Jews, but the classification of their music as “Jewish” did not derive simply from the facts of their biography, any more than the classification of a non-Jew’s music as “Jewish” did. “Jew” was an abstract ideological term, a critical category, a concept with which Christian society made sense of itself and its world. As such it was part of a language of power, and power structured the contents of the term just as much as—and even more than—“real” Judaism did. In the words of Horkheimer and Adorno, who were themselves forced from their university posts by the power of this language, “to call someone a Jew is a pretext to work him over until he resembles the image.” Or in the blunter formulation of Hermann Göring, “It is I who determine who is a Jew.”
This is not to say that the determination is infinitely flexible, or that “Judaism” is some floating signifier empty of meaning. The category of “Judaism” in musical thought has a history, just as it does in economic and social and theological thought; and this history shapes the work to which the charge of Judaism can be put in any given place and time. HaCohen’s book sets out to uncover this history of thought. But the book is not a history in the usual sense. “The search, in this case, is conducted through modes of experience that have survived—however transfigured—in essentially different historical phases.” The goal is to recover these modes of experience (or “Dasein planes,” to use HaCohen’s Heideggerian term), and to string from them a narrative held together not by historical causality, but by a theory—in this case, Freud’s theory of trauma and traumatic memory.
Given the importance of the book’s psychoanalytic orientation, it is both appropriate and moving that it opens with memories of the author’s German-Jewish parents, and of a Jerusalem childhood nourished by German-Jewish fairy tales about princesses who can hear the singing of the stars. Then HaCohen takes up her history, beginning with the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. She characterizes this period as one of largely separate musical identities, with “sonic encounters” producing little musical exchange between Jew and Christian, but in which ideas about the musicality of the other—and especially Christian ideas about Jewish hostility to music—took on important roles in the definition of “collective Self” and “collective Other.” Among the most important of these ideas was the Christian association of Jews with noise rather than music. The phrase “ein Lärm wie in einer Judenschule,” “a racket like that of a synagogue,” plays a central role in this book, and it is in the Middle Ages that HaCohen locates its birth.
The charge of noisiness was not only an aesthetic one. In HaCohen’s Middle Ages, Christian harmony and Jewish dis-harmony were posed in an intractable antithesis, one with extensive social and cultural consequences. Their mutual hostility was performed with heightened emphasis during the competing holy days of Easter and Passover, holidays whose rituals were punctuated by frequent outbreaks of Christian violence against Jews. Sometimes this violence was linked to accounts of ritual murder—the charge that Jews murdered Christian children—and sometimes music was presented as a specific motive for slaughter. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Prioress tells a tale of a young boy who learned by heart the Marian antiphon Alma redemptoris mater (“Mother of the Redeeming Spirit”) and sang it every day as he walked through the Jewish quarter, until one day an anti-antiphonal Jew, irritated by the music, slits his throat and throws his body in a privy. Then the Virgin makes the corpse sing so loudly from the pit that the Christians come running. Miraculously resuscitated, the boy tells his story, and all the Jews of the town are killed. It is this story that inspires the book’s powerful title…..(Complete article in pdf format)
Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 26, 2013
Two film companies – one Egyptian, the other Qatari – are producing a pair of controversial productions that focus on Jewish communities that once lived in the Arab world. Amir Ramses, an Egyptian filmmaker, has directed a documentary titled Jews of Egypt, which is scheduled for release in cinemas in Cairo early next month. Meanwhile, a firm in Qatar will start filming a multimillion- dollar TV series next month commemorating the slaughter of the Jews in Arabia in the 7th century.
The website of the Egyptian company states that the documentary will show how Jews in Egypt lived in the first half of the 20th century, and will examine how “the Jews of Egypt turn in the eyes of Egyptians from partners in the same country to enemies.” Today, there are few Jews left in the country.
Ramses spent three years researching and shooting the film, according to an interview he gave to Ahram Online. He said that he was interested in the subject because over the past 10 years he has “been consumed with the quest for defining Egyptian identity.” In the current political circumstances, where Jews and Christians are viewed negatively by most of the Muslim majority, Ramses wanted to see how society changed from earlier times, when they lived as compatriots rather than enemies.
The movie will focus on the impact of several key events: the creation of Israel in 1948, Egypt’s 1952 revolution, and the 1956 war between Egypt on one side and Israel, Britain and France on the other. It was this conflict that led to the Jews’ exile. The film includes interviews with various Egyptian Jews, along with an Egyptian sociologist and a Muslim Brotherhood member who took part in the 1947 attack on Jewish shops.
“We are in a very dark place… Egyptian society has become preemptively racist. They fear and shun ‘the other’ until proven otherwise,” said Ramses in the Ahram interview. “If the film stirs debate, or stimulates discussion… well, that’s a main reason why I made it.” In an interview with The Jewish Daily Forward in October last year, Ramses described himself as a secularist and said that he was against the idea of a religious state – whether it be Christian, Muslim or Jewish – and added that he sought to distinguish between Judaism and Zionism.
The Qatari production company is producing a TV series called Khaiber, which “is based on a script written by Yusri Al- Jindy, an Egyptian writer who has previously depicted Israelis and Jews as bloodthirsty savages,” according to an article on the Anti-Defamation League blog. The series is being produced by Doha- based Echo Media Qatar and will include famous Arab actors.
The ADL said that Al Jazeera described the production’s name last week as “the most important feature of the Islamic-Jewish fight. Muslims always raise its name in their rallies against Israel because it constitutes a memory of a harsh defeat for the Jews who lived in the Arabian Peninsula during the time of the prophet [Muhammad].” Slogans referencing the slaughter of the Jews at Khaiber are often shouted at anti-Israeli demonstrations. The organization is worried that the series will “reinforce the dehumanization of Jews in the Arab world in the same way that previous programs have done.
Henninger: Hollywood Forgets 9/11: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 20, 2013—Before Hollywood blackballs "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow this Sunday evening, a final and much-deserved stare is in order at the source of this distasteful snub—Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and irresistibly along for the ride, John McCain
Morocco’s Jews Being Remembered Once More: Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2013—Hundreds of members of Islamist and left wing political groups demonstrated outside the Tangiers Film Festival earlier this month against a documentary about Moroccan Jews living in Israel. They claimed that director Kamal Hachkar was promoting “normalization” with the Jewish state.
No Way Out: Barry Shaw, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2013—For Muslims, there is no escape from anti-Semitism. Muslim anti-Semitism has become historically genetic. It is fed into them with their mother’s milk. It is inculcated at all levels, family, religious, cultural and political. It demands a high level of personal resolve and courage for an individual Muslim to break out of this festering prison of Jew-hatred.
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