Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Israel. Oh the occasion, Edward R. Murrow’s report from Buchenwald. Extraordinary.
The extraordinary 1975 Daniel Patrick Moynihan speech, in response to the madness of the “Zionism equals racism” resolution that had passed. There are no Moynihans now, I fear, and more and more fools who think that Zionism is racism. (I’m related to a few.)
Daniel Pearl’s father wrote a column a few years ago in which he lamented the “normalization of evil.” He was quite right, and as Significant Other said upon reading those words, “there is also the evil-ization of normal.” One normal thing now made to appear evil is supporting Israel.
Listen to this speech, the moral clarity, the understanding of history. It makes me so miss my brother Alan – he was one of the few people (and even fewer relatives) with whom I could have serious discussions about politics and history.
Terrific column about our failure to understand economics.
If only he were. And yet, many who are anti-Trump are posting the below video from 1964, as though they are making some deep point about what is happening today. They are not. All they are doing is showing us that they don’t know a thing about history.
I do not like Trump and I do not want him to win the Republican nomination (my first choice would have been Rubio and now I am hoping for Cruz) or the presidency. But I also do not like specious comparisons.
This video is an anti-Barry Goldwater ad from 1964. It’s called “Confessions of a Republican” and in it, a Republican voter nervously confesses his fears about Goldwater and a Goldwater presidency and says he is going to vote for Lyndon Johnson. (For the record, though I am an admirer of Goldwater, I also think LBJ did much good and gets a historical bum rap, especially from old hippies.)
One of the things this nervous Republican mentions is the KKK endorsing Goldwater. It is true that they did but it is also true that Goldwater immediately and sincerely denounced them and said he didn’t want their support (something Ronald Reagan also did when he received the same dubious endorsement in 1980). This nervous Republican also mentions fear of nuclear war and the “mistake” his party made at the Republican convention in 1964 (the mistake presumably being giving Goldwater the nomination).
In fact, Goldwater was always a libertarian, a supporter of civil liberties and civil rights and a believer in freedom. (A young Hillary Rodham-later-to-be-Clinton supported him.) He remained so throughout his life, including openly supporting gay rights before that cause became a favourite of “progressives.” I would love it if I thought Trump was anywhere near the kind of man Goldwater was. So yes, this video being used as some sort of point is foolish, unless that point is, “wow, we used to have some great Republicans that we didn’t appreciate, such as Barry Goldwater. Too bad so many had such an hysterical over-reaction to them.”
(I believe the people posting it today think that if Goldwater had won in 1964, terrible, unspeakable things would have happened. We will never know, but I don’t think it’s preposterous to suggest the United States might be in better shape had Goldwater won.)
Now, about the video itself: I love how this guy smokes up a storm during his monologue! Awesome. And note the suit and tie. I wish we all dressed like grown-ups today. (I have to wonder what the selected Republican would look like in such an ad today.) I imagine this would be classified as an “attack ad.” If so, bring on the attack ads. I think this is powerful, though again, I am an admirer of Goldwater.
Roger Cohen is a bit late to have noticed this, but glad he wrote this fine column. I have relatives who suffer from what he calls “anti-Zionism derangement syndrome.” But as my late brother — who was far too smart to suffer from it — used to say, you can’t reason with people who have this affliction, as they have no interest in facts. Sadly, I am not surprised that much of this derangement has flourished in academia. (Occasionally, I consider going back to school to get my PhD, but then I talk to friends of mine working in academia and reconsider.)
What is striking about the anti-Zionism derangement syndrome that spills over into anti-Semitism is its ahistorical nature. It denies the long Jewish presence in, and bond with, the Holy Land. It disregards the fundamental link between murderous European anti-Semitism and the decision of surviving Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe. It dismisses the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947. This was not “colonialism” but the post-Holocaust will of the world: Arab armies went to war against it and lost.
So simple, really. I don’t understand the difficulty people have grasping this, but I think Bernard Lewis was right when he called anti-Semitism a pathology, a mental illness. It isn’t rational.
Many moons ago, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I went to Poland to visit a friend of mine. Her name was Eva (Ewa) and she had been a classmate of mine at the Sorbonne. We always got along well at school. But that all changed in Warsaw, when she asked me what I hoped to see in Poland. Well, I told her, Auschwitz, of course, and also the Warsaw Ghetto.
Her face fell. She informed me that the former Ghetto was now nothing more than a small plaque. Not interesting. Not worth it. She then said I should not go to Auschwitz. Why not, I asked. Because, she said, Poles died there too. By “Poles” she meant Catholics. She did not consider Polish Jews to be Poles. I was stunned. She went on to say that it was wrong to think it was mostly Jews who died in Auschwitz and that it was really all about the suffering of “real Poles” and so on. I was quite young and had never been exposed to this kind of revisionism and trivializing of the suffering of Jews. Now, sadly, it is old hat to me. But back then it was new and I was shocked.
I insisted, though, and I went to Auschwitz without Eva. She was mad. She was beyond mad. After I left Poland and went back to Paris our friendship was pretty much over. Once — when I had returned to Canada — she sent a Christmas card, but that was because she was trying to get information on how to immigrate to Canada. She had married a Lebanese man (another piece of the puzzle!), she wrote, and he spoke French so Canada would be perfect.
I could not help her and that was that. That trip to Poland was a disturbing experience for me. I was so naïve (now that I am less so, I hope I will be able to visit Auschwitz again). I regret that I did not call her out more. All I did was say, “Well, mostly Jews died there” and “I am going to visit, even if you don’t want to go with me.”
All of this has never left my memory (which is freakish) but it came back in even more vivid colours when I recently read these two books. The first is about a particularly odious Polish hate crime against Jews, the second is about the intense envy that feeds so much anti-Semitism.
Today we say “never forget” and “never again.” The problem is that so many who want it to happen again don’t care or will not admit that it happened in the first place.
Update: It occurs to me I should link here to one of my favourite novels, Peter Matthiessen’s In Paradise. It takes place in Auschwitz, though in the 1990s, and among its themes is Polish anti-Semitism.
Years ago, I lived in France on Boulevard Voltaire, not far from the Bataclan. I never went to the Bataclan because I was never groovy. I did go to see Etienne Daho at Bercy Stadium one time. My apartment was near Place Leon Blum, named after the French politician who, prior to World War II had been the Prime Minister of France and then during the war had been deported (he was Jewish) to Buchenwald and Dachau and Tyrol and then after the war became Prime Minister again. Seriously. Only in France. (I believe his brother died in Auschwitz.)
In 2005, on a trip to Israel, I visited a kibbutz named after Blum – Kfar Blum, it was called. I was with a group of journalists and I shocked them all by knowing who Blum was. I also shocked the lady from the kibbutz who was tasked with taking us around the place — she told me that no one other than French visitors ever knew who Leon Blum was. (I shocked her even more the next morning when I took a whole mess of fish from our breakfast buffet and fed it to Kfar Blum’s many stray cats.)
A few doors down from my apartment on Boulevard Voltaire there was a convenience store run by a Moroccan family. The father had come to France from North Africa but his sons were all born and raised Frenchmen. They were terribly nice and used to help us (my roommates and me) with our bags and suitcases and such when we returned home from trips. I remember that they loved wearing muscle shirts and showing off their good looks. (Why should youth not be so?) They were terribly sweet and I was grateful for their store because, at the time, it was very difficult to find a grocery store open after 7 p.m. in Paris (not the case now). So I had somewhere to go to buy bottles of wine and Lindt bars.
I keep thinking about that time in my life and about Mustapha Dupont, a Gilbert Becaud song from 1984. I moved to France in the late ‘80s and stayed there nearly five years; long a Becaud fan, I enjoyed that song and its idealism regarding French Muslims, an idealism which one could be forgiven for now considering rather quaint.
Some of the lyrics:
Il est né entre Constantine
C’est un bon Français
Comme toi et moi
Il a vu le jour entre Fez
Durand Mohamed Français cent pour cent
De A… à Z…
Son père est tombé en ’44
En plein mois d’août
Mamadou Abdou il est bien d’chez nous
Comme toi, comme nous
C’est ça la couleur d’ l’ équipe de France
Entre bleu d’outre-mer et d’ Provence
Tu prends un Lillois, Marseillais
Un Rital un peu polonais
C’est rouge orange, jaune, vert, bleu
If you don’t speak French, those lyrics talk about three French Muslims who are all ‘bon Francais’ (good Frenchmen), one of whose father died in World War II fighting (one presumes, given the date of the action and the point of the song) for France. The repeated lyric, at the end, is about the colours of “Team France.” Every colour, says Becaud. Team France is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
I bring this song up because I was at a dinner the other night where someone said that France was basically getting what it deserved – in regards terror attacks — for not having properly integrated Muslims. Um, wtf??? Apart from the victim-blaming of the comment, it simply isn’t true. While there is no question that European countries, in general, are not anywhere as good as we (meaning Canada and the United States) are at integration, the vast majority of French Muslims are just that, integrated and very well so. And while I have no doubt that many French Muslims have had to deal with stupid comments or other forms of ignorance, saying France is getting what it deserves is, well, stupid. As though a natural response to discrimination is to shoot up a restaurant, a magazine, a nightclub, a Kosher supermarket. Further, French Jews experience far more hate-based attacks than any other group (French Jews make up 1% of the population but are the victims of 51% of hate-based attacks in France) and I don’t seem them shooting up innocents.
In short, there is a deeper problem here, a sort of mass pathology, as Paul Berman wrote about so eloquently here.
A couple more useful links here and here, and my own observations when I returned to France in 2014 and 2015, regarding what I viewed as a clear improvement in just how well integrated the French Muslim population had become.
Of course, there are neighbourhoods that are a mess — Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 riots erupted, comes to mind. To some degree this is the result of a “hands-off” approach – a big mistake that comes from cultural relativism, moral equivalency, political correctness…and fear, I imagine. A bad idea by any other name is a bad idea. We in the West have become cowards (I blame Baby Boomers). We are unwilling to protect values that have been centuries in the making, values from which every group could benefit. This is currently playing out in Germany and other parts of Europe. When people won’t integrate or obey the law, there is nothing unreasonable or bigoted about jailing them or deporting them if they are not legal or talking honestly about the problem, rather than trying to hide it for fear of appearing intolerant. Islamism is not Islam and it shouldn’t be difficult to say as much.
I believe such an approach would make life better for those who want to assimilate (and by assimilate, I don’t mean giving up one’s religion or freedom of worship). There is also nothing unreasonable with making sure refugees/immigrants are carefully vetted.
I am an idealist. I see no reason that Becaud’s lyrics can’t reflect reality. And in many ways I think they do.
See here two pictures taken last March, when I was in Paris. The first is a plaque from inside the Grand Mosque of Paris, commemorating Muslim soldiers who died for France in World War II. The second is a plaque honouring a ‘spahi’ – regiments of the French army recruited primarily from the Maghred – who died during the liberation of Paris.
There aren’t many, particularly when it comes to battling jihadis/Islamism (why we miss Hitchens and Norm Geras and why we appreciate Paul Berman), but Hilary Benn has revealed himself to be one such rare bird. This speech is extraordinary — the moral clarity, the integrity, the intelligence. Would any Canadian NDP or Liberal politician speak this way? No. Mediocrity is certainly the default position of both of those parties.
The really fun part of watching this clip is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s expression. He’s all like, damn, but I love Islamists! And the West is bad! We’re bad, bad, bad...blah blah blah. What a major loon.
From the speech – stand-out quote (among many):
We are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality but their belief they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt, they hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt, they hold our democracy — the means by which we will make our decision tonight — in contempt. But what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the international brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco; it is why this entire house stood up against Hitler and Mussolini; it is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr. Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil.
Now watch and marvel.
Andre Glucksmann died recently — his comments about the attacks in Paris would have been most welcome. Paul Berman eulogizes him here. One great thinker writing about another — you cannot go wrong.