Apr 2001 Journal

next article:Remembering Eleanor Rathbone

Reacting outrageously to ‘days of rage’

In June 1934 the non-Aryan, and therefore prematurely pensioned off, Dresden academic Viktor Klemperer wrote in the diary he meticulously kept during his twelve ‘underground years’: To me the Zionists who want to go back to the Jewish State of 70 AD [destruction of Jerusalem by Titus] are just as offensive as the Nazis with their nosing after blood, and after ancient ‘cultural roots’.

This cri de coeur of someone who yearned for the liberal Germany that only existed in his mind, tells us more about the diarist than it does about the nature of Zionism. Klemperer was a Jew only in the sense of the Nuremberg Laws. Rooted in German culture with every fibre of his being, he had an emotional block about acknowledging the total collapse of that culture which left him in limbo. At the very same time the Zionists he maligned rendered an invaluable service to millions of lethally endangered European Jews. They did so by conjuring up the vision of a return to the ancient homeland as an aspiration worth striving for. Tragically unable to fulfil that aspiration, the Zionist pioneers still created a mini-State inside British-mandated Palestine which saved over half a million Jews from the fate that would otherwise have overtaken them.

A ‘golden door’

After the creation of the fully-fledged Jewish State, its population increased tenfold within fifty years – a proportionately greater increment than ever recorded in any other country. This increase resulted from a huge inflow of, firstly, Holocaust survivors and Balkan Jews, secondly Sephardim from Arab countries and thirdly Russian Jews. The intensity of their urge to settle in the Jewish State is demonstrated by the fact that during the same half century Israel was involved in half a dozen major or minor wars. No other ‘golden door’ through which immigrants wanted to pass in all history was so bespattered with blood.

Varying the lyrics of the 1920s hit song Forty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong, we say that over four million asylum seekers who opted for a virtual war zone cannot have been wrong. This fact alone validates the Jewish State’s right to exist. Of course, the Palestinians also have a right to statehood – a right Israelis have long been most reluctant to concede. Latterly, though, there has been a shift in entrenched attitudes with two Israeli Prime Ministers aiming for peace – to which goal one sacrificed his life, and the other his career.

Cynical manipulation

The current Palestinian Authority-approved Intifada manipulates world opinion with newsreel footage of stone-throwing children targeted by Israeli sharpshooters. This cynical strategy pays handsome dividends - pace Tom Paulin’s scurrilous Killed in Crossfire (Observer 18 February). The poem, which uses Klemperer’s above-mentioned diary entry as its epigraph, states:

We’re fed this inert/ this lying phrase/ like comfort food/ as another little Palestinian boy/ in trainers jeans and a white tee-shirt/ is gunned down by the Zionist SS/ whose initials we should/ - but we don’t – dumb goys -/ clock in that weasel word crossfire.

The mind-boggling enormity of the phrase ‘Zionist SS’ must make every reader with relatives serving in the Israel Defence Forces – a true citizens’ army – howl with silent, impotent rage. As for the poet’s conceit that Israelis, and by inference Jews everywhere, look upon Gentiles as ‘dumb goys’ it is so redolent of Julius Streicher’s style that it ought by rights to lay Tom Paulin open to prosecution under the Race Relations legislation. We wonder, too, if the editor of The Observer would deem it politically correct, or morally tenable, to publish a piece which puts the phrase ‘dumb honkies’ into the mouth, or mind, of a Black activist.

next article:Remembering Eleanor Rathbone