Tag: Western music


The 400-Year-Old Foundation of the Unique US-Israel Ties: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Jan. 25, 2017— 1. According to Prof. Robert Bellah, a leading sociologist from UC Berkeley, there is “civil religion” in the US: separation between religion and state, but not between religion and society. 

When Gatekeepers of Justice Leverage the Law to Abet Injustice: Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, Huffington Post, Mar. 11, 2017— In keeping with democratic Germany’s commitment to combat anti-Semitism, a court in Essen ruled last year that chanting “death and hate to Zionists” at a demonstration was an illegal anti-Semitic activity.

Zion’s Mother Tongue: Visions of a Promised Land: Benjamin Balint, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 17, 2017— The other day, I took some American visitors to the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Montreal Poet Seymour Mayne Remembers his Friend Leonard Cohen: Seymour Mayne, Jewish Quarterly, 13 Feb. 2017— Leonard was holding court at the front table unit of the café on upper Stanley Street one Sunday in 1960…


On Topic Links


For U.K.’s Holocaust Memorial, a Canadian Architect Envisions Light in a Personal Darkness: Paul Waldie, Globe & Mail, Mar. 10, 2017

Converted Masters; World Famous Masterpieces With a Jewish Twist: Lori Samlin Miller, Jewish Press, Mar. 20, 2017

Archaeological Discoveries in the Holy Land Could Provide Clues on how Jesus Lived: Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, Mar. 20, 2017

Natan Alterman or Amos Oz? The Six-Day War and Israeli Literature: Liam Hoare, Fathom, Spring, 2017





                                                            Yoram Ettinger

                                                     Jewish Press, Jan. 25, 2017


1. According to Prof. Robert Bellah, a leading sociologist from UC Berkeley, there is “civil religion” in the US: separation between religion and state, but not between religion and society.  Civil liberties are Bible-driven, reflecting more responsibility than rights. 2. For instance, on December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts chose to recite Genesis 1:1-10, the Creation, in their a special broadcast to earth upon entering the lunar orbit. 3. President Lincoln referred to Exodus, Chapter 20, the Ten Commandments, as the summation of his theology. 4.  President Truman said: “The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount….”


5. On June 27, 2005, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 6-foot-high Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. According to Chief Justice Rehnquist: “Acknowledgements of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation’s heritage are common throughout America…. Since 1935, Moses has stood, holding two tablets that reveal portions of the Ten Commandments written in Hebrew, among other lawgivers in the south frieze [of the US Supreme Court….] Representations of the Ten Commandments adorn the metal gates lining the north and south sides of the Courtroom as well as the doors leading into the Courtroom.  Moses also sits on the exterior east façade of the [US Supreme Court] holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments…. Since 1897, a large statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments, alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul, has overlooked the rotunda of the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.  A medallion with two tablets depicting the Ten Commandments decorates the floor of the National Archives.  Inside the Justice Department, a statue entitled ‘The Spirit of Law’ has two tablets representing the Ten Commandments lying at its feet.  In front of the Ronald Reagan Building stands another sculpture that includes a depiction of the Ten Commandments. So too a 24-foot-tall sculpture, outside the Federal Courthouse, depicting, among other things, the Ten Commandments and a cross. Moses is also prominently featured in the Chamber of the United States House of Representatives…. Moses was a lawgiver as well as a religious leader, and the Ten Commandments have undeniable historical meaning….”


6. A February 25-27, 2005 Gallup Poll shows that 76% of Americans were in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments monument on the ground of the Texas State Capitol.


7. On March 29, 2006, the California State Senate approved bill SCR 108 stating: “This measure would recognize and acknowledge that the Decalogue, also known as the Ten Commandments, ranks among the influential historical documents that have contributed significantly to the development of the secular governmental and legal principles and institutions of the USA and the State of California…. The integral secular role played by the Decalogue in the legal history of Western civilization, from the time of England’s King Alfred the Great, through the era of William Blackstone and the American Framers…. In the history of American institutions, no other book – except the Bible – has played so great a role…. The American Revolution preserved the Biblical seven-day week, dictated by the Ten Commandments, with the seventh day – a day of rest…. Members of the US Supreme Court have noted the foundational role played by the Ten Commandments in the development of our legal system….


8. Eight sculptures of Moses are featured in the US Supreme Court and a bust of Moses faces the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Moses and/or the Ten Commandments also feature in the US Federal Courthouses in Cleveland, OH and Indianapolis, IN; the Supreme Courts in Harrisburg, PA, St. Paul, MN, Lansing, MI and Knoxville, TN; the County Courthouses in Cleveland, OH, West Chester, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, Ft. Wayne, IN and Jackson, MS; the Appellate Court in Brooklyn, NY; the Boston Public Library and the State Capitol in Lincoln, NE; etc.


9. On April 8, 2015, Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson, signed into law a bill instructing the state to erect a privately-funded Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol in Little Rock. The Arkansas State House and the Senate approved the bill 72:7 and 27:3 respectively.


10. The Ten Commandments have been an integral part of the legal, cultural, religious and political fabric of the American people and their representatives on Capitol Hill, highlighting the 400-year-old Judeo-Christian foundation of the US-Israel covenant. This foundation has transcended transient politics and geo-strategic considerations, catapulting US-Israel cooperation to unprecedented levels.






THE LAW TO ABET INJUSTICE                                     

Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein

Huffington Post, Mar. 11, 2017


In keeping with democratic Germany’s commitment to combat anti-Semitism, a court in Essen ruled last year that chanting “death and hate to Zionists” at a demonstration was an illegal anti-Semitic activity. Unfortunately, however, there are other German judges today who subvert that commitment by ignoring common sense, morality, and history.


We refer to a decision by the Wuppertal court, recently upheld by a regional court, found that the three Muslims who set fire to a synagogue did so as an act of political protest against Israel’s actions in the Gaza War, and therefore could not be convicted of anti-Semitism. As Prof. Alan Dershowitz put it, “The idea that attacking a synagogue can be justified as an anti-Israel political protest rather than anti-Jewish hate act, is as absurd as saying that Kristallnacht was merely a protest against poor service by Jewish store owners.” Or, we might add, torching a mosque could be considered a protest against ISIS. Or desecrating the Cologne Cathedral might be dismissed as a consequence of long-simmering discontent over the medieval Crusades.


Common sense and Jews are not the only victims of this court. It has twice dismissed charges against a group of local Salafists who enjoyed patrolling the streets with jackets announcing themselves as Sharia Police, and warning locals not to defy Islamic practice though music and alcohol. The court found their actions not “suggestively militant,” and lacking “intimidating effect.” One of the accused was on trial for supporting a terrorist organization. Had they beheaded someone, that court undoubtedly would have ruled that they were merely testing their shaving apparatus.


At a pivotal moment in German and world history, German jurists—far from using the law to protect the persecuted, first turned a blind eye to the way laws that destroyed millions of lives were made, then eagerly confirm Nazism’s absolute evil as binding law. From the outset of the Third Reich in 1933, German judges formulated and presided over the Rassenschutzgesetz, which allowed Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and other untermenschen to be legally recognized as less than human. The judiciary perverted the old Rechtsstaat, meant to protect the citizen against the power of the State, and turned it into the legal basis for the eventual murder of millions. It became a willing vassal of an empire of death and destruction, quickly dispatching Stauffenberg, Bonhoeffer and any other German who resisted to quick and painful execution – all under the banner of the law.


In the aftermath of WW II, the very same judges maintained their moral perch above postwar society. While many sectors of public life worked to prevent the stain of Nazi thought from blackening the German future (including purging Party members from teaching social studies in German schools), the legal sector often protected Nazi criminals from prosecution again and again. The numbers confirm this. A full 77 percent of senior Justice Ministry officials in the late 50’s were former Nazi Party members, exceeding the percentage during the War itself. In fact, according to the recent Rosenburg Project, between 1949 and the early 1970s, 90 of the 170 top ministry officials were former Nazi Party members. Absent were judges who had belonged to the Resistance, or who had spent the War in exile.


Many friends of Germany are worried that some gatekeepers of German law may once again be using the law to open the gates of hell. The target today is once again the Jews. Providing a moral and legal free pass to attack a synagogue is quintessentially anti-Semitic, and seen as such by the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the National Democratic Party, despite embracing positions opposed by Germany’s Constitution, could not be banned because it was not a threat to democracy. The rest of the world – and many Germans – looks on in horrified disbelief, remembering that this was exactly what they said about the Nazi Party and Hitler in 1933…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





                                     Benjamin Balint

                                    Wall Street Journal, Mar. 17, 2017


The other day, I took some American visitors to the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. My guests were struck not so much by the parchments themselves as by the sight of a group of Israeli fourth-graders, their noses pressed to the display cases, reading aloud from texts that were two millennia old.


In “The Story of Hebrew,” Lewis Glinert, a professor at Dartmouth College, aims to track the fate of the Hebrew language “from the Israelites to the ancient Rabbis and across two thousand years of nurture, abandonment, and renewal.” The most ambitious attempt since William Chomsky’s groundbreaking 1957 study, “Hebrew: The Eternal Language,” Mr. Glinert’s biography of Hebrew succeeds in representing the language not just as a vehicle of communication but as a crucible of national cohesion.


Mr. Glinert’s narrative, related with impressive sweep, begins with the classical Hebrew of biblical literature. The Bible’s sublime idiom is marked by stylistic suppleness and breadth, he says, that could encompass “narrative, prophecy, law, proverbs, philosophy, elegy, romance” and much else. The era of biblical Hebrew reaches as far back as the second millennium before the Christian era, and Mr. Glinert suggests that the spoken language survived the Jews’ exile to Babylon, their return and their struggles under Roman rule.


Spoken Hebrew seems to have died with little fanfare around A.D. 200, more than a century after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. But throughout the diaspora, Jews used written Hebrew to scaffold elaborate edifices of religious and legal interpretation. Though stateless, Hebrew would flourish as a written medium of cultural continuity. If the Jews safeguarded Hebrew, it was said, the holy tongue safeguarded “the people of the Book.”


The first of these edifices, the Mishnah, was compiled in the second and third centuries. This record of religious teachings and laws “created a rich lexical heritage that could be passed on to future generations,” Mr. Glinert writes, “and that Hebrew poetry and prose would draw upon long after Hebrew had ceased to be a spoken language.” The Babylonian Talmud—another great edifice of interpretation, setting out the authoritative commentary on rabbinic law—expanded Hebrew’s expressive possibilities by inflecting Hebrew with Aramaic, the lingua franca of the ancient Near East.


In the ensuing centuries those who standardized Hebrew’s grammatical architecture and honed its philological precision saw the language not just as a precious possession in itself but also as a fulcrum of Jewish life. “It must constantly be on our lips,” the Egyptian-born linguist and sage Saadiah Gaon wrote in the year 902, “for it affords us an understanding of the Divine Law.” While Hebrew commingled with Arabic in Islamic Spain, it preserved a separate reservoir of expression in the realms of law and liturgy. During the golden age of Hebrew literature, roughly the 10th to the 13th centuries, Andalusian poets like Judah Halevi and Solomon ibn Gabirol wielded a Hebrew of astonishing allusive density in order to blur the lines between sacred and sensual.


In a pair of chapters on the neglected story of how Hebrew figured in the Christian imagination, Mr. Glinert tells how Christians learned Hebrew both to access “hebraica veritas,” or Hebrew truth, and to monitor the Jews in their midst “with the goal of mastering the mischief and the falsehoods of the Jews,” as a 14th-century writer put it. Martin Luther’s call for “sola scriptura,” or “only the Scriptures,” led Protestants back to the original texts of the Hebrew Bible. In the 15th to 17th centuries, Christian Hebraists—including Johannes Reuchlin in Germany, Guillaume Postel in France, and John Selden in Britain—put Hebrew at the center of Western humanism.


In the 18th century, leaders of the Jewish Enlightenment sought, through Hebrew, to emancipate Jews from the confines of the ghetto; by making Hebrew an aesthetic equal to European languages, they hoped to open the doors to modernity. Their efforts, while incomplete, prepared the ground for a small group of secular Eastern European writers in the following century to dig channels through which Hebrew’s hidden vitality could course once more. These cultural Zionists brought about a rebirth of Hebrew, an achievement, Mr. Glinert writes, “without precedent in linguistic and sociopolitical history.”


In its early stages, this revival didn’t seem to have much prospect for success. For the pious, Mr. Glinert says, “using the holy tongue for everyday speech smacked of desecration.” For pragmatists, resurrecting a bookish tongue that lacked words for tomato, theater, microscope or fun seemed either ridiculous or inconceivable. Even the father of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, envisioned a Jewish state of German speakers…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                







Seymour Mayne

Jewish Quarterly, 13 Feb. 2017


Leonard was holding court at the front table unit of the café on upper Stanley Street one Sunday in 1960, when our mutual friend, the poet Henry Moscovitch, ushered me forward to meet him. He was twenty-six that spring, the lion of the McGill University arts crowd, and I was a high school student aged sixteen. I had just entered the Canadian literary world, small as it was then, having published several poems in The Canadian Forum. The first sight of the debonair figure, with two beautiful young women who flanked him on his left and right side, remains framed in my memory. He must have said something encouraging to me. And that is how our long friendship began. As he grew older, the strength of affection and respect he inspired in his old Montreal friends increased in depth and intensity. When he left us this November, he was still that gracious Davidic figure.


How Jewish was Leonard Cohen? He had no way not to be, born into the unique Montreal Jewish community, sandwiched as it was between the French-speaking working-class quartiers to the east and the English-speaking middle-class suburbs to the west. While Yiddish was the first language of many Jewish immigrants in the working-class neighbourhoods of Montreal, it did not have the same currency among the wealthier members of the community. Leonard’s home was not suffused with the expressive language. At school he studied mainly in English, with French added as a second language. In synagogue he heard biblical and liturgical Hebrew, which echoed and strongly resonated for him right up to his last album, You Want It Darker. In his middle years, he ranged out from Biblical texts to studying the Kabbalah, which fascinated him to his last days.


In a province defined by linguistic and religious affiliations, our Jewish community was an almost autonomous city-state of its own, with health facilities, its own hospital, and school system. Every writer and artist who emerged from Montreal in those first decades of the last century was shaped by these communal influences, and Leonard was no exception, even though he was raised in the upper-class neighbourhood of Westmount. Leonard never forgot nor could he forget that he was Jewish. He carried it as a mark of honour all his life while he alluded to and punned on his priestly name, Cohen, in poem, song and fiction. Called to the Torah by his Hebrew name, Eliezer, he nevertheless published exclusively under his English name, like almost every Jewish boy in Montreal who bore two names, double identities. Although he passed through a Buddhist initiation on Mount Baldy, in his last years his Jewish heritage took more and more of his observance, to the point that he was returned at the end to be buried, not in Los Angeles, but in one of the Jewish cemeteries of Montreal, alongside generations of his noted family…


At this juncture, A.M. Klein (1909–1972)—a member of this Montreal group and, later, by general consensus, one of Canada’s major poets—proudly affirmed a strong Jewish voice. Klein unashamedly celebrated his roots and tradition while exploring the bilingual Canadian milieu. Such was the older poet’s abiding influence on the younger poet over the years, that Leonard dedicated a number of poems to him, including the resonant “To a Teacher”, which later became a song in the album, Dear Heather. The Montreal dynasty of Jewish poets continued from Klein to Irving Layton (1912–2006), with whom Leonard maintained a close and special relationship for decades. The Jewish lineage in Canadian poetry, then, begins with Klein, continues with Layton from the 1950s on, and finds new force in Leonard’s poetry and lyrics.


While I am beholden to Leonard for the inspirations of his writing and friendship, he remains indebted with an unfulfilled promise, made over a half-century ago in the apartment of his friend, Robert Hirschhorn. We made a bet one day in 1963, as a group of Leonard’s friends sat in a circle in Robert’s living room and Leonard strummed his guitar, offering us song after song. Impetuously, as the youngest enthusiast in that room, I predicted that he would easily make a million with his then-unrecorded songs. Leonard quickly responded that he would present me with $10,000 for my little magazine, if that indeed materialized.


Over the years and on various occasions, I would remind him, with a smile, of his pledge, and he would aver, with an even more winsome smile, that he still hadn’t reached that magic million-dollar figure. Over time, of course, I let the matter slip. And then came Leonard’s difficult years, when he discovered that his manager had availed herself of his pension fund, which meant that he had to go out on the road again, a wandering minstrel even in his seventies.


Given his recent successes, this past summer, for fun, I was thinking of writing him one more friendly reminder. But his emails began to reveal a darker edge. He was “out of the loop for a while”—in his own words, “dealing with some disagreeable visitations from the Sitra Achra”, those fearful Kabbalistic presences from the dark and shadowed side of existence. Who under such circumstances could have the heart to raise the issue of an amusing wager made decades earlier? Along with his innumerable fans and followers, I would have to remain satisfied with the ample offerings of his prolific works. You got away, Eliezer, and the $10,000 was never paid out. But you left us a legacy which, contrary to your expectations in the rebellious years, I along with all your friends and devotees recognize as rich and bountiful. Your songs and name call up an abundance of blessings. Wager met and copiously acquitted. We’ll miss you, chaver.


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!



On Topic Links


For U.K.’s Holocaust Memorial, a Canadian Architect Envisions Light in a Personal Darkness: Paul Waldie, Globe & Mail, Mar. 10, 2017—Jack Diamond has long been considered one of Canada’s best architects and he’s designed award-winning landmarks around the world. But few projects have touched him as deeply as the one he’s working on now: Britain’s National Holocaust Memorial.

Converted Masters; World Famous Masterpieces With a Jewish Twist: Lori Samlin Miller, Jewish Press, Mar. 20, 2017—Why would an observant woman with a talent for drawing and painting publish a book with images of her canvas creations of reworked masterpieces? What, in addition to her obvious artistic abilities, is she expressing?

Archaeological Discoveries in the Holy Land Could Provide Clues on how Jesus Lived: Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, Mar. 20, 2017—When a revamped highway into Jerusalem fully opens in coming months, it will be just the latest makeover of a road that has served Holy Land travelers for centuries.

Natan Alterman or Amos Oz? The Six-Day War and Israeli Literature: Liam Hoare, Fathom, Spring, 2017—In the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War, poetry and song captured the moment in Israeli history when the people, as Natan Alterman, said were ‘drunk with joy’. Naomi Shemer’s addendum to ‘Jerusalem of Gold,’ a song penned, as the legend has it, while Israeli troops celebrated at the Western Wall, groans with the sound of ram’s horns echoing round the Old City. ‘We have returned to the water cisterns, to the market and to the square,’ Shemer sang. ‘We shall return and go down to the Dead Sea by the Jericho Road.’

















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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)



A Deliberate Campaign to Bash Israel: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post,  Feb. 3, 2013The 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, 2012A review of: The Music Libel Against the Jews, Ruth HaCohen, Yale University PressThe 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, 2013Two 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.

On Topic Links



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





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. 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.


Top of Page





David Nirenberg

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)


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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.


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Henninger: Hollywood Forgets 9/11: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 20, 2013Before 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, 2013Hundreds 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, 2013For 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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