Polish city displays two faces to its few Jews

In Torun there are hardly any Jews, and yet a Franciscan monk with a vision of dialogue founded a Higher School of Hebrew Philology. Across the river, the Catholic Maryja radio station broadcasts antisemitic poison and is criticised by the Pope. The Forward.

Saul Asks A Question.

Saul by email asks :

John Demjanjuk is accused of the murder of 29,500 people in Poland in
1943 as part of the planned systematic extermination of Jews.

Antisemites deny the Holocaust happened.

I have two genuine questions about this letter published in today’s Guardian.

What kind of justice is it that proscribes the normally accepted
right of the accused to challenge the assumption that a crime had, in
fact, occurred? Normally the prosecution is obliged to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that the crime of murder had taken place. This is not
the case in the trial of Demjanjuk. The court will, without proof,
arbitrarily accept that the crime took place. Being stripped of his
most powerful defence, the accused is reduced to pleading mistaken
identity or that he had nothing to do with an unproved murder.”

1. Is this letter doing what I think it is doing, that is, denying the
facts of the Holocaust? Or is some other interpretation possible?

2. If so, why did the Guardian think it fir to publish? or is
Holocaust Denial now part of “legiitimate debate”?


UPDATE. Modernity sheds some light on the letter writer’s views.

SAUL ADDS : On an update at Modernity, this has now been placed on the relevant letter’s page at the Guardian,

“Editor’s statement: We published a letter by John Mortl in the Guardian of Thursday 3 December and on this site relating to the case of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of assisting in the murder of 27,900 people in Poland. Unfortunately, we misread the letter. The underlying meaning, we now realise, implied Holocaust denial. As soon as we realised our mistake, we removed the letter from the site. It should never have been published and we apologise unreservedly that it was.”

I’d like to thank Modernity for the information he has thrown on this matter, as well as those who posted their comments, especially Jeremy.

“Jew-Wise” Ingrams is at it again.

Jew-Wise Ingrams is up to his usual tricks : Will Zionists’ links to Iraq invasion be brushed aside?. This is in defense of the
antisemitic article last week in the same paper by ex diplomat, turned lobbyist Oliver Miles.

No conspiracy, no surprise.

Right wing journalist Peter Oborne’s comment piece on his Dispatches programme on the pro-Israeli lobby said :

“It is important to say what we did not find. There is no conspiracy, and nothing resembling a conspiracy.”

Why say this unless he had pre-conceived ideas ? Did he expect to find a conspiracy , did he look in vain for one ? Or maybe Oborne is a conspiracy theorist.

More “problematic cliches” about Nazi Israel at the Guardian

Mark Gardner from the CST discusses a change made in a recent Comment Is Free piece. Changes have been made before,such as when a piece originally titled “McCain’s pander to Jewish voters”, by Richard Silverstein was changed to “McCain’s play for pro-Israel voters”.

More “problematic cliches” about Nazi Israel at the Guardian
Mark Gardner

It is neither CST’s role nor wish to enter the often overheated debate as to whether or not criticism of Israel in the Guardian – and its highly successful online variant, Comment is Free (CiF) – is fair, balanced or proportionate.
Nevertheless, there are far too many occasions when the anti-Israel sentiment of Guardian and CiF contributors comes to our attention: this is not so much because the content might be misconstrued as explicitly antisemitic, but rather because it employs loose, crass and offensive langauge that should have no place in as influential an institution as the Guardian. (An institution, moreover, that claims to uphold the highest of moral and editorial values).
There are numerous examples of Guardian and CiF excesses in CST’s latest antisemitic discourse report, and another depressing example occurred on 18 August in an article by Slavoj Zizek that featured in both the print edition of the Guardian, and online at CiF. Zizek’s article accused Israel of taking over Palestinian territory: and in its original CiF version, stated that the land would be “Palestinian-frei”. Two days later, on 20 August, CiF amended this to read “Palestinian-free”, just as the actual print copy had read in the Guardian.
To some, this may appear a moot difference, but “Palestinian-free” is not the Nazi-themed term that “Palestinian-frei” is. After all, the Nazi Holocaust was designed to leave Europe “Juden-frei”, and the gate at Auschwitz read “Arbeit Macht Frei”. This is not to say that the Guardian and CiF should be accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’, far from it, but in this world of very small mercies, “frei” is clearly a Nazi slander, whereas “free” has no particular Jewish connotation.
CiF has tried hard in recent years to improve its moderation policies regarding comments upon the site, and in particular against the upsetting and hateful screeds that so often follow Israel and Jewish related articles. Their attitude to the accuracy and content of actual articles (rather than comments) has not always been so apparent, but CiF has explained their welcome decision to alter “frei” to “free” (see the foot of Zizek’s article) as:
“Due to an error, an edit to the print version of this article was not made to the online version. In print, the term “Palestinian-frei” was changed to read “Palestinian-free”. This edit has now been applied to the online version, as of 20 August 2009.”
It is not 100% clear from this explanation whether or not “Palestinian-frei” originated from Zizek’s original transcript, but this seems by far the most logical reading of the sentence. So, CiF’s alteration is certainly a welcome one and it leaves the article not quite as gratuitously offensive as it originally appeared to be.
I say ‘not quite as gratuitously offensive’, because the actual paragraph in which “Palestinian-frei” originally appeared is itself quite disgraceful. The paragraph is shown below (in its original “frei” form):
“Palestinians often use the problematic cliché of the Gaza strip as “the greatest concentration camp in the world”. However, in the past year, this designation has come dangerously close to truth. This is the fundamental reality that makes all abstract “prayers for peace” obscene and hypocritical. The state of Israel is clearly engaged in a slow, invisible process, ignored by the media; one day, the world will awake and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei, and that we must accept the fact. The map of the Palestinian West Bank already looks like a fragmented archipelago.”
So, according to Zizek, the Palestinians’ “problematic cliche” of Gaza being “the greatest concentration camp in the world” is “dangerously close to the truth”. Israel, one presumes, is becoming the new Nazi Germany, and Palestinians are becoming the new Jews. Furthermore, this moral and historical perversion of Holocaust imagery is nothing more than a “problematic cliche” that is, anyway, now coming to fruition.
Zizek’s assertion that “one day, the world will wake up and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-frei…” is not so much immoral as simply ludicrous. Are we to believe that one morning, the world will wake up and suddenly realise that Nablus, Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem and countless other places have no population remaining? How will this occur? Will a Guardian journalist call room service in their Ramallah hotel one morning and receive no breakfast? And if so, will this journalist also fall prey to the extraordinary phenomenon whereby this enforced mass depopulation was somehow an “invisible process, ignored by the media”?
There is more than one “problematic cliche” in Zizek’s article, and in its publication by the Guardian and CiF. The most egregious part of one of those has been belatedly taken care of, but how many more “problematic cliches” will the Guardian stable keep chucking at us?

When blood libel becomes part of ‘kultur’

Petra Marquardt-Bigman reflects on the appearance (about which we posted previously) of an old libel in the Kultur section of a Swedish newspaper, and considers thinkers and writers who try to make the Israel-Nazi comparison respectable.

“It was doubtless a coincidence that on two consecutive days, two major publications in two European countries gave out the message that Israel deserves to be compared to the Nazis – but it was arguably a revealing coincidence.”

Read it all.

Update: David T discusses on the origins of the organ theft story and, despite being unfounded, observes it taking hold.

Blood libel in mainstream Swedish newspapers

Top Swedish Newspaper Aftonbladet says IDF Kills Palestinians for their organs. The original article is here.

Below is a guest piece on EISCA by Arieh Kovler of the Fair Play Campaign Group. Since this piece was written, the editor of Aftonbladet has fallen back on the Livingstone Manoeuvre saying that anybody who criticizes Israel risks being accused of antisemitism.

Recycling Old Libels. By Arieh Kovler.

The Blood Libel is one of the oldest antisemitic charges against Jews: the accusation that Jewish people conspire to kill non-Jews for nefarious purposes. The most common formulation of this lie is that Jews kill a Christian boy in order to use their blood for a ritual of some kind. But many of the earliest recorded blood libels level a slightly different accusation.

In 1909, Prof Hermann Strack of Berlin University wrote The Jew and Human Sacrifice – the first serious scholarly work devoted to exposing the Blood Libel as a dangerous historical lie. It is, unfortunately, still relevant today. Talking about the earliest Blood Libels, he notes (p174):

“In several cases, always assuming the credibility of the tradition, it would be a matter of popular -medical belief … According to the Marbach annals, the Jews of Fulda (when tortured, of course), confess in December, 1235, that they had murdered the miller’s children, ut ex eis sanguinem ad suum remedium elicerent – in order to obtain their blood for medical use“

Strack also highlights the account of Thomas Cantipratanus, a monk writing in about 1270. Thomas claims that all Jews were inflicted with some sort of hidden medical condition as a punishment for killing Jesus:

“A very learned Jew, who in our day has been converted to the [Christian] faith, informs us that one enjoying the reputation of a prophet among them … made the following prediction: ‘Be assured that relief from this secret ailment, to which you are exposed, can be obtained through Christian blood alone’. This suggestion was followed by the ever-blind and impious Jews, who instituted the custom of annually shedding Christian blood in every province, in order that they might recover from their malady.”

In these early Blood Libels, the Jews were accused of killing non-Jewish children to use their bodies for medical reasons.

750 years later, this particular varient of the Blood Libel lives on. On the 17th of August, Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published an article by Donald Boström under the title “Palestinians accuse the Israeli army of stealing body parts from its victims”. The article strongly suggested that Israel has been stealing organs from Palestinians and both using them to supply Israeli transplant patients and selling them internationally.

The piece presents lots of facts: Many sick people in Israel need organ transplants. In 1992, then-health Minister Ehud Olmert led a drive to encourage Israelis to become organ donors. Some New Jersey Jews are being investigated for their role in an organised crime syndicate, which allegedly includes the buying of human organs from voluntary donors. Palestinians who are killed by the IDF are often autopsied.

From these facts, Boström suggests a massive and macabre international conspiracy in which Israelis and Jews harvest organs from Palestinian victims for gain and profit.

This is an incredibly serious and sickening charge to make. Not only does it recall the blood libels of the past, but it is also a form of the Nazi Card. The dehumanization of Jews by the Nazis was one of the worst features of the Holocaust; The Nazis treated Jews as raw materials rather than people, to be worked, killed or experimented on. The accusation that Israel would use the Palestinian as living organ banks is an inversion of this aspect of the Holocaust thrown back at Jews.

So it’s surprising that David Boström – like the accusers in the Blood Libels 0f old – doesn’t even pretend to offer any real evidence for his claim. Speaking to Israel Radio, he said:

“It concerns me to the extent that I want it to be investigated. But whether it’s true or not – I have no idea, I have no clue.”

Donald Boström is not the first to revive this contemporary twist on the old Blood Libel. He claims rumours of organ theft are common among Palestinians. Perhaps one reason for these rumours is the Iranian TV series Zahra’s Blue Eyes, broadcast in late 2004 and later dubbed for an Arabic audience. The plot involves the IDF conspiring to harvest Palestinians’ eyes for transplant into blind Israelis.

But Aftonbladet is a mainstream left-wing newspaper, not an Iranian propaganda outlet. It has the largest daily circulation of any paper in the Nordic Countries. Nearly one in six of the Swedish population reads it. It is majority-owned by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, which has input into its editorial line. The paper’s editorial staff read this article, and felt that it was appropriate to run it anyway. Asa Linderborg, an editor on the relevant section of Aftonblade, told Ha’aretz that the newspaper “stands behind the demand for an international inquiry” of Boström’s claims. She also said:

“We had many discussions on whether to publish the article or not, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no facts there that are incorrect.”

And so a major European national newspaper ran a story that is extremely similar in both form and content to a medieval antisemitic slander.

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