By: David M. Weinberg
Feb 1, 1998
Published in The Jerusalem Post on February 1, 1998
Prof. Bernard Wasserstein
Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies
Oxford University, England
Dear Learned Professor —
Thank you, I think, for allowing readers of The Jerusalem Post to participate in the bone-chilling virtual tour of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington which you recently conducted for Yasser Arafat (this page, January 26, 1998). It is not often that one gets to read Goebels-style Palestinian propaganda cunningly comparing Israel with Nazi Germany, penned by the president of the oh-so-prestigious Oxford Center for Jewish Studies.
Now help me understand exactly what you were getting at when suggestively asking: “What must be Arafat’s thoughts when he visits the Holocaust Museum. And what should be ours?”
Were you suggesting that Israelis have committed Nazi-like crimes when you took Yasser to view a tableau depicting “the modern machinery of war turned against a civilian population….thousands killed…..whole communities reduced to dust….”?
What about the tableau you showed to the PA chairman of “volunteers and local collaborators committing mass murder and obscene atrocities”? What’s the hint here? That the Palestinians have suffered at our hands like we suffered from the Nazis?
Explain to me what you were trying to prove when taking Arafat to see pictures of “a welling surge of outrage that spills into resistance. Teenagers pick for stones among the rubble of their towns and villages and sling them against heavily armored military units….heroic but futile….”. Do you really mean to imply that the intifada kids can be heroically compared to the Warsaw Ghetto resistance?
And here’s a final warped beauty: “The wholesale transfer of people to special districts, designated in propaganda as autonomous. Densely concentrated in these areas, they await….the doom that has been constructed for them”. What an abhorrent aspersion! Nazi deportations and concentration camps likened to Palestinian refugee camps and autonomous areas.
So that’s how it is, Bernard, huh? Suffering is all in the eye of the beholder. If we Jews were only to look at things thorough Arafat’s eyes we’d realize that they’ve suffered a holocaust too. Our holocaust isn’t unique, and we can’t expect Palestinians to sympathize with us because of our past. In short, we have no upper moral hand in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Have I understood you correctly, Bernard?
I suppose you also think that Israel should overlook the depiction of Israelis as Nazis that is now commonplace in the Palestinian Authority-controlled press. In your opinion, Arafat’s columnists are not too far off the mark.
Well, Bernard from Oxford, let me now tell you what a run-of-the-mill, simple citizen of Israel thinks. Comparing Israeli military occupation resultant from a national conflict, no matter how nasty, with the crematoria — takes a great deal of intellectual dishonesty. Equating the causes of the Palestinian refugee problem with Nazi ideologies of racial hate — is moral chicanery. It’s blasphemous, even evil. You flunk Modern History and Ethics 101.
I’m also going to give you a failing grade in Introductory Academic Methodologies and Conventions. In this course, universities teach students to eschew raw passions, refrain from wild conjecture and characterizations, and shun extreme rhetoric. Professors teach the uninitiated that academic discourse, not to mention civilized conversation, ought to be analytically focussed on the factual and well-substantiated, on the cautious, collected and subtle.
But you are the partisan professor that has zealotly used this page over the past several months to froth with indignation about “savage” and “primitive” ultra-orthodox Jews, about “repellent orthodoxy”, about the “intellectual mud” of yeshivot, and about Jewish religion as “blinkered intellectual poverty”. You’ve even suggested “plough(ing) over them”, the hareidim, “with compassion”.
In your worldview, Jewish unity is a “a repressive social order”. It is “despotism of conventional thought” and a “laager mentality” that leads us poor Jewish rabble to spuriously and ridiculously seek such unity. You celebrate, rather than lament, the fact that “MTV, telbubbies and the world wide web…are the unifying cultural icons” of today’s affluent Jewish society.
“Thanks to the miracle of satellite technology, silence on Israeli state broadcasting channels on Yom Kippur gives way in some homes to a cacophony from foreign stations and video recorders”, you triumphantly wrote last fall. Well, hallelujah, Prof. Wasserstein. I’m glad that you’re pleased by this degeneration of Jewish identity.
Now, you’re the superior intellect peddling moral relativity regarding the Holocaust, and by extension, promoting the most radical arguments of the Palestinian cause. I wonder if there’s a connection.