Another Tack: The German robbed Cossack (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By SARAH HONIG 04/12/12)
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This week in 1903 Shalom Aleichem, the giant of Yiddish literature,
wrote a letter to Leo Tolstoy, the giant of Russian literature. It
was shortly after the gruesome Kishinev pogrom. Shalom Aleichem
planned to publish a modest compilation about the atrocity, to which
he asked Tolstoy to contribute a short message to “Russia’s millions
of distraught and disoriented Jews, who more than anything need a
word of comfort.” Tolstoy never so much as bothered to reply.
The famed novelist, feted as the conscience of Russia, received
dozens such letters urging him to speak out against the slaughters –
then a seminal trauma in Jewish annals. The Holocaust was decades
away. Nobody 109 years ago could imagine anything more bloodcurdling
than the horrors of Kishinev.
But not everyone was moved – not even a renowned humanitarian like
Not only did he not speak out, but he resented the entreaties.
He replied to one Jewish correspondent only, Emanuel Grigorievich
Linietzky, to whom he caustically complained about being pestered.
Tolstoy then blamed the Czar’s government, absolving the masses who
bashed the skulls of babies, gouged children’s eyes, raped their
mothers and sisters, eviscerated them, beheaded men and boys,
quartered and mutilated them and looted all they could carry.
We hear much the same throughout Europe at each memorial to the
The upgraded, systemized, gargantuan-scale German sequel to Kishinev
was by all accounts committed by unidentified extraterrestrials
called Nazis. All the others, Germans included, were their victims.
But Tolstoy foreshadowed an even more sinister inclination that would
fully and hideously burst upon our scene a century and more after the
Kishinev devastation. The great author and icon of compassion
exhorted Russia’s shaken Jews to behave better.
The implication was that the Jews were somehow guilty, needed to
improve themselves and achieve higher virtue in order to merit better
And so wrote Tolstoy to Emanuel Grigorievich: “The Jews must, for
their own good, conduct themselves by the universal principle of ‘do
onto others as you would have them do to you.’ They must resist the
government nonviolently...by living lives of grace, which precludes
not only violence against others, but also the partaking in acts of
Given the background of Eastern Europe’s downtrodden Jewry,
such ’turn-the-other-cheek’ sermons appear chillingly pitiless (to
say the least) because all the Jews had been doing was turning the
other cheek. Taken in a broader context, Tolstoy argued against
Jewish self-defense before any self-defense was actually attempted.
Jews, Tolstoy in effect said, share culpability for their
tribulations, must suffer quietly and cannot rise to protect
Sound familiar? It ought to. It’s exactly what we keep hearing today
from current preachers of goodwill, literary or otherwise. The more
things change the more they sickeningly stay the same.
Enter Günter Grass. Germany’s Nobel laureate for literature has just
warned the world about the danger which the Jewish state poses to
global peace and warned that little Israel is out to no less than
exterminate the Iranian people, all 80 million of them. It doesn’t
matter that we - including even the loopiest left-wingers on the
outermost fringes of our political spectrum – know that this is utter
The last thing on any Israeli’s mind is annihilating Iranians. We
only want to make sure that they don’t nuke our tiny uber-vulnerable
Too much to ask? When it comes to Jews, anything is apparently too
This is particularly pertinent for us in the springtime of the year,
when we collectively remember the six million who perished in the
very Holocaust in which Grass, by his own candid admission, was an
But his stained personal history clearly constitutes no incentive to
discreet reticence on his part. Like many Europeans, Grass has lost
all shame and the disappearance of shame is the new bon ton among
like-minded genteel Jew-haters.
It’s politically incorrect to even accuse Grass of thinly disguised
anti-Semitism. That instantly turns him into the muzzled good-guy and
us into loathsome Jews seeking to silence yet another legitimate
critic of Israel with their doomsday weapon – charges of anti-
Semitism. Moreover, any remote reference to the Holocaust is sure to
elicit howls of derision.
This diabolical yet prevalent deformation of perceptions confers on
all anti-Semites the freedom to slander, while denying Jews the right
to call a spade a spade.
It’s a foolproof arrangement. Jew-revulsion now masquerades behind
acutely inflammatory anti- Israel and pro-Arab propaganda, whose
disseminators inevitably deny anti-Semitic motives. Their favorite
ploy is to present Israel-bashing as just deserts for the Jewish
Post-Holocaust circumspection has bred cleverly camouflaged anti-
Semitism - not less dangerous or less in-your-face but more cunning
Most contemporary anti-Semites are remarkably practiced in
accompanying their invective with instant disclaimers – by now an
expected part of the pattern.
Grass is extraordinarily true to form.
Indeed, he already gets star-billing on a host of Judeophobic
websites, which celebrate him as yet another upstanding and righteous
critic of Israel, an honorable observer pilloried as an anti-Semite
in order to suppress his heartfelt outcry.
Thus Grass becomes the ultimate robbed Cossack in a rationalized
German adaptation of the infamous Russian tradition. Anti-Semites –
whether they specialized in mere pogroms or outright Holocausts –
habitually portrayed themselves as the aggrieved side.
Robbed Cossack Grass actually volunteered for the barbarous Waffen-SS
(branded a “criminal organization” at the Nuremberg Trials). But what
He has put it all behind him, wiped his own slate clean and now feels
empowered to launch anti-Jewish diatribes at will. Professing to have
propelled himself to a loftier leftist plane, he can reproach the
Jews and, like Tolstoy before him, demand they do nothing to defend
If they do, they become, in Grass’s idiom, “the greatest danger to
the world.” It’s Israel that threatens Iran and not vice versa. By
his criteria, our forebears threatened Egypt’s pharaohs, the
Amalekites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, Haman’s Persians, Greeks,
Romans, Crusader marauders, Muslim conquistadors, Spanish
inquisitors, Chmielnicki’s Ukrainian mass-murderers, Russian
pogromchiks, to say nothing of the Germans, whose fuehrer always
screamed hysterically about the danger posed to the world by "the
forces of International Judaism,” compelling him to formulate
a “final solution” to their problem.
FALLACIES OF the sort which spawned the worst tragedies that befell
our nation are still promulgated passionately today. An unbroken
chain of lies links the hounding of Jews throughout the ages,
rendering flagrant fabrications, like Grass’s, ever pertinent.
With mounting disbelief we witness world callousness toward the
Jewish state that arose against all odds from the ashes of that great
Holocaust conflagration. It’s beyond our grasp that we are vilified
while supposed advocates of justice and seekers of peace cosset
Arab/Muslim torchbearers of Nazi genocide.
We can’t comprehend the hypocrisy. We can’t understand how assorted
glitterati and literati perennially postulate that those who strive
to continue what the Nazis failed to finish are actually
the “victims’ victims.” Europe loves to regard Israelis as
victimizers and sympathize with “victimized” Arabs/Iranians/Muslims.
It’s nothing less than mind-blowing that the children of murderers,
sadists, collaborators, bureaucrats, robbers, those who didn’t see,
those who didn’t want to know, those who saw and knew but didn’t act –
all now profess to occupy the moral high ground. They now preach to
the children of the slain, gassed, burned, shot, buried-alive,
starved, tortured, degraded, dehumanized, enslaved, dispossessed,
bereaved and orphaned.
How can the moral onus be shifted onto the victims’ progeny? Easily –
if the Holocaust is viewed as a crime without perpetrators. No
occupied country colluded in rounding up and deporting its Jews. None
produced greedy plunderers and collaborators. The occupiers
themselves were a mythical extinct band of no distinct ethnicity,
known generically as Nazis, who methodically hunted hidden Jewish
*In our topsy-turvy existence nothing is unthinkable. And so
descendants of history’s worst-guys parade as good-guys, while
descendants of the most downtrodden are considered as still woefully
deficient of decency.
A German friend, Josef H, notes that official reactions in his
country to Grass’s diatribe “were 99% negative.” Nevertheless, he
writes, “I admit that I very rarely meet people who feel that they
have to stand up for Israel when Israeli-Palestinian problems are
mentioned. So I normally abstain from using the word ‘Israel’ in any
conversation in order not to set fire to explosive material.”
Josef asked a member of his own extended family what he thought of
the Grass imbroglio. The relative, Josef relates, “a really decent,
reliable, honest man, generally following Christian principles...
answered, without thinking twice about it: ‘Grass is right.’”
Such is the climate of opinion around him that Josef requested I not
reveal his surname. Significantly, to his mind, Grass echoes his
fervent Nazi past, deeply rooted in his psyche.
Grass isn’t the only Nobel literature laureate of such a mind-set.
Some, like Britain’s Rudyard Kipling, didn’t even wax indignant pro
forma when accused of anti-Semitism. Kipling unflinchingly blamed the
1917 Bolshevik revolution on an “international Jewish plot.” In 1919
he backed the publication in the UK of The Protocols of the Elders of
In 1920, Kipling agreed only conditionally to read proofs of the
memoirs of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) prepublication, vowing
to return them if he finds them “pro-Yid.”
Kipling dismissed Einstein’s general theory of relativity as a
component of a comprehensive Jewish conspiracy to destabilize world
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t so. It doesn’t matter that every Jew
knows there’s no Jewish world-domination conspiracy. What matters is
that the Kiplings and their ilk expressed the zeitgeist of their day,
just as Grass now does – regardless of whether his country’s
establishment sanctions his opinion.
The fashionable, respectable anti-Semitism of European intellectual
salons in the early 20th century made the Nazi persecutions of Jews
palatable. The fashionable, respectable anti-Israelism of European
intellectual salons in the early 21st century makes Ahmedinejad’s
calls for our extinction palatable.
And above all hovers Tolstoy’s sanctimonious spirit which hints that
our misconduct is the root cause of our misfortune. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 04/12/12)
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