Because what he said wasn’t true (& How long did this take?)

October 10, 2010

Today’s dispatch (about the sorry subject of anti-Semitism) is split in two for space reasons. This is the second part.

There is an introductory note in the first part, and I recommend reading that dispatch first: “And over here is where the gas chambers didn’t exist…”

According to Professor Robert Wistrich, a world expert on anti-Semitism, Tsarist Russia apart, global anti-Semitism is worse in 2010 than it was in 1910. “Anti-Semitism is continually morphing all the time, which is its strength,” he said.



1. Why the fuss over CNN’s Rick Sanchez? Because what he said was a lie
2. Columbia University, rewriting history
3. Anti-Semitic attacks in the Netherlands double
4. On advice of a Muslim MP, police patrol Amsterdam disguised as religious Jews
5. Holocaust memorials, cemeteries desecrated in southern, central and eastern France
6. French railway company promises to comply with U.S. bill revealing Holocaust role
7. Jewish teacher suspended in France for teaching “too much” about the Holocaust
8. Jewish dancers attacked by Muslim teenagers at a performance in Germany
9. Romanian central bank under fire over commemorative coin
10. New Zealand radio presenter suspended after saying that “Jews are expendable”
11. Top prize for “Hitler” at Australian junior school
12. How long did this take?
13. Czech singer receives 3-year prison term for promoting Nazism
14. “Europe reverts to type” (By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


CNN host Rick Sanchez was fired last week for remarks he made about Jews.

Many commentators have rushed to his defense. For example, Andrew Sullivan asked “So why the fuss over Rick Sanchez?”

The answer is because what Sanchez said was a lie. As Brian Palmer at Slate wrote, the news networks are not run by Jews:

“If Sanchez was referring to people in the television news business, he’s wrong. Not one of the major television news operations – Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, or NBC News – is currently headed by a Jewish executive. (That includes Ken Jautz, the man who fired Sanchez.) The Internet is littered with rumors about various media moguls being Jewish, but few of those claims are backed by any evidence.”

Jeffrey Goldberg adds: “Rick Sanchez trafficked in a pernicious stereotype that has been used in the past, in various places, to justify violence and discrimination against Jews. But another question also arises: Even if all of the television news networks were indeed run by Jews, would this mean that they were run by ‘The Jews’, by a monochromatic Jewish collective? Does the Jewishness of any given television executive represent the most essential truth of his or her being, the element that consciously or subconsciously shapes an entire worldview, and thus, American journalism? Or is it even worse – are these irreducibly Jewish television executives part of an actual politically-motivated cabal known as the ‘pro-Israel lobby,’ the ostensible subject of the Andrew Sullivan blog post in which Rick Sanchez’s libel is mentioned in casual and dismissive terms?”

As this email list was the first to reveal at the time, CNN fired its senior editor for Middle East news Octavia Nasr in July after she published a Twitter message that said she respected a notoriously anti-Semitic Lebanese Shi’ite cleric.



New York’s prestigious Columbia University’s new Center for Palestine Studies (which officially opened on Thursday to a packed hall of students and professors) seems to exclude all Jewish history from the region. The only scholar listed with a Jewish studies background is Anidjar, whose work mostly focuses on Medieval Spain.

Coming from Columbia University, this is of course predictable, but nonetheless it is highly disturbing as yet more impressionable young minds will no doubt be misled.

Organizers said that the center was created in honor of the notoriously unreliable former Columbia professor Edward Said. Its co-director is Rashid Khalidi, who previously acted as an informal advisor to Barack Obama.

“As a political science student, I’m really excited,” student Samira Khalifa told The Columbia Spectator. “There aren’t enough courses that have anything to do with Palestinian struggles.”

Critics said that with the opening of the center, Khalidi and others at Columbia had “dispensed with the myth of valuing free academic enquiry and turned the classroom into an extension of political struggle.”

Among those academics affiliated with the institute is one professor infamous for being a “9/11 truther” and for still telling students that Israel killed 1500 people in Jenin in 2002 (which is, of course, a complete lie).



Anti-Semitic attacks in the Netherlands nearly doubled last year compared to the year before, according to newly-released police figures. Police said that 209 incidents had been documented in 2009, accounting for about one tenth of all discriminatory incidents in the country despite the fact that the number of Jews is much smaller than the number of other minorities in the Netherlands. This represented a 48 percent rise in attacks against Jews and Jewish sites, including damage to graves of dead Jews and anti-Semitic graffiti on Holocaust monuments.

The Jewish community in the Netherlands numbers around 30,000, less than 0.3 per cent of the country’s population.



The acting mayor of the Dutch capital Amsterdam, Lodewijk Asscher, has deployed undercover police officers disguised as orthodox Jews on the streets in order to identify violent anti-Semites. “Jews in at least six Amsterdam neighborhoods often cannot cross the street wearing a skullcap without being insulted, spat at or even hit,” one Dutch newspaper reported. Secret television recordings by one broadcasting company showed young men shouting and making Nazi salutes and chasing a rabbi in the Dutch capital.

Amsterdam police already disguise officers as decoy prostitutes, gays and old people in operations to deter street muggings and attacks on homosexuals and in the city’s red light district.

The idea of using police officers in Jewish disguise was floated by a Muslim parliamentarian. Ahmed Marcouch, a Moroccan-born Social Democratic member of parliament who immigrated to the Netherlands at the age of ten, told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz: “I say, send fake Jews to arrest the attackers. Everything must be done to keep the phenomenon of anti-Semitism from growing. It seems like these are small incidents, but this is serious.”



A monument to the victims of World War II in south-western France has been spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti. French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux expressed “horror and sadness” after the discovery of the slogans and Nazi symbols painted in bright red at a memorial to the deportation and resistance in Marmande, which bears the names of Nazi concentration camps.

This incident follows several other recent anti-Semitic attacks in France. For example, in July dozens of Jewish graves, including those of children, were smashed or overturned at the Jewish cemetery of Wolfisheim, near Strasbourg in eastern France. (In January, around 30 Jewish graves were also desecrated in the Strasbourg area, on the same day as the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz.)

And anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas were daubed recently on the walls of the Etz Haim synagogue in Melun in central France, and on the windows and walls of a dozen kosher stores in Paris.



The state-owned French railway company SNCF may finally disclose details about the role it played transporting Jews to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust. The announcement follows pressure from lawmakers in California’s state legislature, where a bill is in process that requires companies seeking state business to reveal any involvement in the Holocaust.

“It is our intention to fully comply with the bill,” said Peter Kelly, an attorney for SNCF, which is working on a bid to win a $45 billion contract to build California’s high-speed rail system.

California legislators said they were not seeking restitution for the relatives of Holocaust victims, but believed that taxpayers had a right to know how their money was spent and companies such as SNCF should “come clean about their central role in rounding up and transporting Jews for death.”

SNCF, as well as other instruments of the French state, have long been accused of covering up their role in the Holocaust.

A 75-year gag order issued by the French postwar government is in place to protect the names of French citizens involved in the round-up of Jews from being made public. A ruling last year by France’s Supreme Court confirmed that the first files from 1940 will become public in 2015, with the remaining documents becoming public over the following four years.



In a case which is dividing France, a history teacher in the town of Nancy has been suspended for breaching “the principle of secularism and neutrality” after the French education ministry concluded that she was teaching “too much” about the Holocaust and had organized trips for her students to see former Nazi camps in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Catherine Pederzoli, 58, was investigated by officials at the education ministry, who released a report about the matter in July. The report accused the teacher of “lacking distance, neutrality and secularism” in teaching the Holocaust.

Pederzoli’s lawyer, Christine Tadic, said that the school authorities were leading a witch hunt against her. “Had the teacher been Christian, no one would have led a campaign against her this way,” she added.

Pederzoli is now getting a lot of support both inside and outside the Jewish community, and her case has become something of a cause célèbre. There is a demonstration in her favor today.



A group of Jewish dancers were attacked with rocks and stones by a group of teenagers during a performance at a street festival in Hanover, Germany over the summer. After one dancer suffered a leg injury, the group canceled its performance. Six German teenagers of Lebanese, Palestinian and Iranian origin, were arrested. They also used a megaphone to shout anti-Semitic slurs such as “Juden raus” [Jews out] during the attack.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the newspaper Die Welt that anti-Semitic feelings were widespread in both far-right and Muslim communities in Germany. Noting that one of those arrested was as young as 14, she said “It particularly saddens me that anti-Semitic views can already be seen with such vehemence among children and youths.”



Romania’s National Bank has been strongly criticized after minting a silver coin which depicts the late patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Miron Cristea, who as prime minister stripped 37 percent of the Jewish population of its citizenship in 1939, paving the way for their murder in the Holocaust.

After a complaint from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the bank’s governor, Mugur Isarescu, agreed to review the coin. He added the coin may be scrapped if it is considered to be anti-Semitic, which is illegal in Romania.

Cristea led the church between 1925 and 1939, and was the country’s prime minister from 1938 to 1939. His government amended the citizenship law, stripping 225,000 Jews (over a third of Romania’s Jews at the time) of their citizenship. In a study published in 2004, an international commission of historians said that Cristea had “demonized the Jews” and called for their deportation. 270,000 Jews subsequently died during Marshal Ion Antonescu’s pro-Nazi regime in Romania.

The coin also sparked protest from Romania’s Jewish community. “I can’t understand how the patriarch managed to pass through the filter,” said Robert Schwartz, representative for Jews in the city of Cluj.



A radio presenter in New Zealand has been suspended after saying that “Jews are expendable”. The “Breakfast show” DJ and television personality David Fane told a media event: “Would you roast an HIV person? You’d roast them because they’re expendable, like the Jews. Hitler had a right, you know.”

Fane’s words have caused outrage amongst members of the Jewish and gay communities in New Zealand. Stephen Goodman, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said: “While we wish to preserve the rights of freedom of speech, anti-Semitic comments like this go over the line.”

Fane apologized, saying: “There are many faces to bigotry and sadly I have added mine. I am deeply sorry.”



The head teacher of an Australian school issued an apology after a child dressed as Adolf Hitler was awarded a prize for best costume.

At a fancy dress event at the Catholic primary school in Perth, a pupil arrived dressed as the Nazi leader. Staff judged the costume, complete with swastika, as worthy of first place in the competition.

After parents complained, the school sent out a letter describing the costume and prize as “inappropriate.” But the head teacher said it was not “sinister” as the children had been asked to dress as a well-known figure and “Hitler was a fairly famous person.”

(In 2005, Prince Harry, who is third in line to the British throne, was criticized for wearing a Nazi outfit to a party. Picture here.)



The Czech Doctors’ Association says it has drafted an apology to Jewish doctors struck off its books during the so-called Second Republic – the short period between the end of democratic Czechoslovakia in September 1938 and the beginning of Nazi occupation in March 1939. Months before the Germans invaded, a number of Czech professional organizations started banning Jews from their ranks, motivated by a combination of Nazi propaganda and economic self-interest. In Czechoslovakia – as elsewhere in Europe – a disproportionately high number of doctors were Jewish.

Within days of the Munich agreement, the Czech Medical Chamber took the initiative to reduce the number of Jewish members. It was just one of several professional organizations that chose to emulate their colleagues in Germany – bodies representing lawyers, engineers, notaries also took similar measures. Czech Jewish leader Tomas Kraus (who is a subscriber to this email list) said “It’s never too late to apologize, especially now that the anti-Semitic moods that Europe experienced in the thirties more or less are coming back.”

The modern-day Czech Bar Association apologized last year for banning Jewish lawyers in 1938.



An appeals court in the Czech Republic this week upheld a lower court ruling that sentenced a prominent member of the country’s neo-Nazi movement to three years in prison for anti-Semitic song lyrics.

Michal Moravec, lead singer of the band Imperium, was sentenced last year in the southern city of Ceske Budejovice for the promotion of neo-Nazism on the album “Triumph of the Will.” Moravec had appealed the verdict.

The album’s name is the same as a Nazi propaganda film shot by filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl. The ruling by the country’s Supreme Court is final. Last year, Czech police detained former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in Prague on suspicion of supporting or denying the Holocaust. Duke arrived in Prague after being invited by local neo-Nazis to publicize the Czech translation of his 1998 memoir My Awakening, which claims that the systematic mass murder of Jews by Nazi Germany never took place. Denying the Holocaust is a hate crime in the Czech Republic.


I attach one article below, by Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens (who is a subscriber to this email list, as are Andrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg who were quoted above).

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



Europe Reverts to Type
The EU’s response to anti-Semitism? “No comment.”
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
September 14, 2010

If a top European mandarin mouths off about Jews and the rest of Europe’s political class acts like it’s no big deal, does that make them cowards, accomplices – or just politically astute? Probably all three.

Earlier this month, Karel De Gucht, the European Union’s trade commissioner and a former foreign minister of Belgium, gave an interview to a Flemish radio station in which he offered the view that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were sure to founder on two accounts: first, because Jews are excessively influential in the U.S; second, because they are not the sorts to be reasoned with.

“Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill,” Mr. De Gucht said, dispensing with the usual fine-grained, face-saving distinction about the difference between a “Jewish” and an “Israel” lobby. “This is the best organized lobby, you shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics – no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”

Nor was that all the commissioner had to say on the subject. “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right,” he said. “And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

Here, then, was a case not of “criticism of Israel” or “anti-Zionism,” the usual sheets under which this sort of mentality hides. Mr. De Gucht’s target was Jews, the objects of his opprobrium their malign political influence and crippled mental reflexes. If this isn’t anti-Semitism, the term has no meaning.

But perhaps it no longer does, at least in Europe. “I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense I did not intend,” Mr. De Gucht said, by way of non-apology. “I did not mean in any possible way to cause offense or stigmatize the Jewish community. I want to make clear that anti-Semitism has no place in today’s world.”

The comment admits of two interpretations: (1) that it is insincere, and therefore an act of political expediency; (2) that it is sincere, and Mr. De Gucht thinks that casually bad-mouthing Jews doesn’t quite reach the threshold of “anti-Semitism” – defined, as the saying has it, as hating Jews more than is strictly necessary.

I suspect the latter interpretation, which has an old European pedigree, is closer to the mark. But whatever Mr. De Gucht’s motives, the more interesting phenomenon has been the European non-reaction. “No comment,” says a spokesman for German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “Our position on anti-Semitism is very clear but we have no comments on other people’s statements,” says a spokesman for Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. “High Representative [Catherine] Ashton is confident [De Gucht] didn’t mean any offense, and that he apologized,” says a spokeswoman for the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “He made personal comments for which he expressed his personal regret and there is no further comment to make,” says a spokesman for the European Commission.

Now imagine that Mr. De Gucht had made analogous comments about Muslims: What would have been the reaction then? Actually, it’s not hard to guess. For weeks, Germany has been in an uproar over a book by Bundesbank member Thilo Sarrazin that has unflattering things to say about Muslim immigrants and what they portend for Germany’s future. I have no brief for Mr. Sarrazin (who also made a somewhat cryptic comment about Jews sharing “a particular gene”). But why has Mr. Sarrazin been forced to quit the Central Bank and is now being drummed out of his Social Democratic Party at the same time that Mr. De Gucht has been given a pass?

One answer is that there are about 1.5 million Jews in the EU today, as against some 16 million Muslims, and politicians are responsive to numbers. Fair enough. The other answer is that Europe – and not just Muslim Europe – is pervasively anti-Semitic.

If that sounds over-the-top, consider that last year the Anti-Defamation League conducted a survey of European attitudes toward Jews in seven different countries. Do Jews have “too much power in the business world”? In France, 33% said this was “probably true”; in Spain it was 56%. Were Jews to some degree responsible for the global economic crisis? In Germany, 30% thought so; in Austria, 43% did. A separate 2008 Pew Survey also found that 25% of Germans, 36% of Poles and 46% of Spaniards had a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable opinion of Jews.

As part of his defense, Mr. De Gucht insisted he was only offering his “personal point of view,” and not those of the European Commission as a whole. He shouldn’t be so modest. He has his constituency. It’s why he remains in office. It’s why Europe’s future is beginning to look increasingly like Europe’s past.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.