Sakset/Fra hofta

I forrige måned avholdt den tyske innenrikskomiteen en offentlig høring om anti-semittisme i Tyskland. Mange av innleggsholderne valgte å fokusere på den klassiske anti-semittismen som man finner i det man eufemistisk kaller «høyre-ekstremistiske» miljøer, altså blant skinheads og nynazister.

Journalist og forfatter Henryk Broder mener imidlertid at problemet er lokalisert andre steder – kamuflert som «anti-zionisme» i Tysklands akademiske og politiske miljø:

I thank you for the invitation to this hearing. It is an honor for me to be able to speak to you. I know that there has been some unhappiness on account of my participation. But I am sure that by the end of my statement you will not regret having invited me.

This is not the first hearing on the issue of anti-Semitism and it will not be the last. Ever since the writer and self-avowed Jew-hater Wilhelm Marr published his «The Triumph of Germandom [Deutschtum] over Jewry» in 1879, thus becoming the leader of political anti-Semitism in imperial Germany, there have been numerous attempts made to define, explain, and neutralize anti-Semitism. They have all failed. If this was not the case, we would not be here today. Every discussion of anti-Semitism starts with a definition of the concept. And many get no further than that, such that after all the efforts to get a grasp on the phenomenon one is left merely with the finding that anti-Semitism is, as the old joke goes, «when one can’t stand Jews even more than is normal.»

I would like, therefore, to concentrate on two points: two arguments to which one has to pay special attention if one does not want to conduct a merely virtual debate. Firstly, anti-Semitism is not a matter of a prejudice, but rather of a sort of resentment. In and of themselves, prejudices — literally «pre-judgments» [Vorurteile] — are harmless. I have prejudices, you have prejudices: everyone does. It is only negative prejudices that bother us. If I say to you that Germans are hardworking, disciplined, and show their guests great hospitality, you will happily agree with me. If, however, I say that Germans are cheap, infantile, and lack a sense of humor, you will presumably get upset. That’s an unacceptable generalization, you will say. It is the same with Jews. We gladly hear positive prejudices expressed — on the «people of the book» or Jewish humor — but negative prejudices, which thematize our worse tendencies, we take as an insult.

The distinction between a prejudice and a resentment is as follows: a prejudice concerns a person’s behavior; a resentment concerns that person’s very existence. Anti-Semitism is a resentment. The anti-Semite does not begrudge the Jew how he is or what he does, but that he is at all. The anti-Semite takes offense as much at the Jew’s attempts to assimilate as at his self-marginalization. Rich Jews are exploiters; poor Jews are freeloaders. Smart Jews are arrogant and dumb Jews — and, yes, there are also dumb Jews — are a disgrace to Jewry. The anti-Semite blames Jews in principle for everything and its opposite. That is why there is no point in trying to debate anti-Semites or in wanting to convince them of the absurdity of their views. One has to marginalize anti-Semites: to isolate them in a sort of social quarantine. Society must make clear that it disdains both anti-Semitism and anti-Semites: just as it disdains parents beating their children and rape — including spousal rape — even though it well knows that it cannot monitor everything that transpires behind closed doors.

For det andre, hevder Broder, er det slik at dersom vi vil forstå problematikken, må vi innse at anti-semittisme ikke er en konstant, slik måleenheter som det metriske systemet eller definisjonen av volt og watt er. Som alle sosiale fenomener er anti-semittisme gjenstand for transformering. Selv fattigdom er ikke lenger i dag hva den var på Oliver Twists tid. Den anti-semittismen vi stadig er opptatt av å diskutere er et fenomen som tilhører det forrige århundret og århundret før der igjen. Det er idiotenes anti-semittisme – denne anti-semitten har ingen realistiske observasjoner om gjenstanden for sin besettelse, bare en diffus følelse. Han tar ut sitt hat ved å male svastikaer på vegger og skrive «Juda verrecke» på gravstener. En slik anti-semitt er et tilfelle for politiet og domstolene, men ikke noe mer enn det. Ingen føler sympati for bøller som utfører Hitler-hilsen og skriker «Juden raus». Denne varianten av anti-semittisme er stygg, men politisk irrelevant – den er sin egen dødsannonse.

Den moderne anti-semitten ser helt annerledes ut. Han har ikke barbert hode. Han har gode manerer og ofte en akademisk tittel attpå. Han sørger over jødene som ble drept under Holocaust. Men på samme tid lurer han på hvorfor de overlevende og deres etterkommere ikke har lært noe av historien og i dag behandler et annet folk like dårlig som de selv ble behandlet en gang. Den moderne anti-semitten tror ikke på «de zionistiske protokoller». I stedet fantaserer han om en Israel-lobby som angivelig kontrollerer amerikansk utenrikspolitikk, lik halen som logrer med hunden. For den moderne anti-semitten er det en selvfølge at han 27. januar hvert år feirer frigjøringen av Auschwitz. Men på samme tid kjemper han for Irans rett til atomvåpen – «for hvordan skal vi kunne nekte Iran det vi har tillatt Israel og Pakistan?», som politikeren for det tyske venstre, Norman Paech, formulerte det. Eller han snur på forholdene og hevder at det er Israel som truer Iran og ikke omvendt – slik den tyske midtøsteneksperten Dr. Udo Steinbach nylig gjorde i et intervju.

The modern anti-Semite finds ordinary anti-Semitism disgraceful. He has no problem, however, embracing anti-Zionism and is grateful for the opportunity to express his resentment in a politically correct form. For anti-Zionism is a sort of resentment just like classical anti-Semitism was. The anti-Zionist has the same attitude toward Israel as the anti-Semite has to Jews. He is not bothered by what Israel does or does not do, but rather by the fact that Israel exists. That is why he participates so passionately in debates about the solution to the Palestinian question — which could well mean a final solution for Israel. On the other hand, he is left indifferent by conditions in Darfur or Zimbabwe or Congo or Cambodia, because there are no Jews involved in those places. Ask the foreign policy spokesperson of the Left Party, for instance, how many statements he has issued about «Palestine» and how many about Tibet.

Earlier — let’s say at the time of classical anti-Semites like Wilhelm Marr, Karl Lueger, and Adolf Stoecker — everything was plain and simple. There were Jews, there were anti-Semites, and there was anti-Semitism. After 1945, for the well-known reasons, we then had in Germany an anti-Semitism without Jews. And now today we are again confronted by a new phenomenon: an anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. Another new phenomenon is the professional profile of what might be called the «leisure time anti-Semite» who does his regular job during the day, perhaps even in a federal government office, and then in his spare time writes «critical» texts on Israel that appear on obscure anti-Zionist websites. [The reference is to Ludwig Watzal, an official of Germany’s Federal Office for Civic Education (BpB), many of whose articles have been reprinted on the site antimperialista.org. See here on Watzal. The BpB has resisted calls for Watzal’s dismissal, arguing that the writings in question are not connected to his professional activity. — Translator’s Note] Nobody wants to be an anti-Semite, but the «anti-Zionist» hall of shame is getting increasingly crowded.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are two sides of the same coin. If the anti-Semite was convinced that it is not him, the anti-Semite, who is to blame for anti-Semitism, but rather the Jew himself who is to blame, so too is the anti-Zionist convinced that Israel is responsible not only for the suffering of the Palestinians, but also for the hardship it suffers itself. The older persons among you will perhaps remember what a Green Party politician, who is still a member of the Bundestag, said about the Iraqi rockets that were fired at Israel at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991: «The Iraqi rocket attacks are the logical, nearly unavoidable consequence of Israeli policy.» [The author of the quote is Green Party Member of Parliament Hans-Christian Ströbele. — Translator’s Note] At the time, the same Green Party politician also opposed the delivery of defensive weapons like Patriot rockets to Israel, because this would, he claimed, lead to an escalation in the hostilities.

I dag, 17 år senere, hører vi tilsvarende uttalelser når det gjelder rakettangrep på Israel fra det sørlige Libanon og Gazastripen; nemlig at de er det logiske, nesten uunngåelige resultatet av israelsk okkupasjon og at Israel bør la være å reagere for å unngå en eskalering av fiendtlighetene. Den moderne anti-semitten viser respekt for jøder som har vært døde i 60 år, men føler motvilje mot levende jøder som tar forholdsregler for å beskytte seg selv. Han skriker «Se opp for begynnelsene!» når en håndfull weekend-nazister demonstrerer i Cottbus, men han rettferdiggjør den nåværende iranske presidenten og forsvarer Tysklands fortsatte forretningsforbindelser med Iran.

Ladies and gentleman, we will not solve the problem of anti-Semitism: not at this hearing nor at the next. But the mere fact that you are discussing the issue — when there are also other and more pressing problems that need attention — is a good sign. If I may in all modesty make a suggestion: leave the good old anti-Semitism to the archaeologists and antiquarians and historians. Devote your attention to the modern anti-Semitism that wears the disguise of anti-Zionism and to its representatives. You will find some of the latter among your own ranks.

I thank you for listening.

Pajamas Media: Henryk Broder – Antisemittisme uten antisemitter