Saturday, April 28, 2012

The European Anti-Semitism Sweepstakes

by Bruce Bawer

When Nobel Prize-winning German author and world-class left-wing crank Günter Grass sunk to a new low a few weeks back with an anti-Semitic poem that would have warmed the heart of Joseph Goebbels, I observed that “in a continent swarming with self-seeking literary intellectuals who ooze self-righteous anti-Semitism, Grass has resumed his place at the head of the whole unseemly pack.”

Well, if the latest screed by Norwegian “peace professor” Johan Galtung is any evidence, Grass’s poem has inspired other leading members of the pack to aim for their own new lows. For Galtung has now served up his own grotesque entry in the Jew-hatred sweepstakes.

Granted, it’s no surprise to see Galtung, the “father of peace studies” and founder (more than half a century ago) of the International Peace Research Institute, diving into these foul waters. Poisonous anti-semitism fits right in with Galtung’s charming history as a booster of Communist dictatorship and a savage critic of Western democratic capitalism – and, especially, a propagandist against America, which for him is the epitome, and the headquarters, of everything despicable and dangerous about the contemporary world. This is a guy who thinks that war is caused not by tyrannical bullies but by free countries that refuse to be bullied – a guy for whom responding to aggression is at least as evil as aggression itself. (In fact, even more evil – for if you don’t resist aggression, there’s no war, right?)

What’s most lamentable is that this unspeakable crackpot has fans. Years ago, at the University of Oslo, I experienced the revolting spectacle of Galtung receiving a prolonged ovation for a “lecture” that was little more than a pastiche of anti-American invective and absurd conspiracy theories. Last September 30, he gave another lecture entitled “Ten Theses about July 22” – that being the date on which Anders Behring Breivik massacred 77 people in and near Oslo. The lecture, according to NRK, the Norwegian national broadcasting company, “was greeted with a standing ovation by some, while others chose to leave the auditorium.” Good for them. In Dagbladet on October 7, John Færseth neatly summed up the lecture’s message as follows: “Galtung comes dangerously close to the idea that the world is really controlled by Jews and Freemasons.” After Galtung replied to Færseth, the latter followed up by reprinting his Dagbladet article in the Humanist along with a reply to Galtung’s reply. Galtung’s reply to the reply to his reply – are you still with me? – appeared in a later issue of the Humanist, and both items from the Humanist were made available online on April 23.

Galtung’s last contribution to this exchange, entitled “On Clear Lines and Ambivalence,” is an instant classic of its genre – namely, lowdown anti-Semitism originating from the very summit of European intellectual celebrity (or, at least, much too close to that summit for comfort). To be sure, Galtung makes an exceedingly feeble effort to shield himself from charges of anti-Semitism – (1) by suggesting, absurdly, that he is himself a stalwart soldier in the fight against that most stubborn of European prejudices (“anti-Semitism has mostly disappeared from American debate. And that’s a good thing. I made my contribution when I worked for the Anti-Defamation Le[a]gue”), and (2) by making the magnificently disingenuous argument that not to allow criticism of Jews and of Israel is to keep the lid on a potentially explosive brew.

Get that? Avoid questions about Jews and Israel, Galtung warns, “and anti-Semitism will come like a tidal wave.” He claims that “Jewish friends” of his in the U.S., “a country frustrated down to its bone marrow,” fear precisely this kind of tidal wave. (I would be fascinated, by the way, to know which Jews in the U.S. are this man’s friends. If you’re one of them, please drop me a line and explain.) To sum up: we’ve got to criticize Jews and Israel as vigorously as possible – not to contribute to anti-Semitism, but to prevent it.

(While you’re scratching your chin over that one, let me just interject that, when it comes to Galtung’s work for the Anti-Defamation League, all I’ve been able to discover is that the ADL published – in 1961 – a book in which he surveyed high-school students’ knowledge of and attitudes toward Jews and Nazism. Again, if you can tell me anything more about Galtung’s involvement in the ADL’s fight against anti-Semitism, do let me know.)

Among the questions Galtung wants to see discussed freely – in order, you understand, to prevent an explosion of anti-Semitism – is whether, as one of his fellow “peace researchers” in Sweden has proposed, Anders Behring Breivik was an operative for the Mossad. (In other words, Galtung expects us to mull over the proposition that the government of Israel masterminded the cold-blooded execution of dozens of Norwegian teenagers attending a summer camp.)

Galtung also suggests that a more open and robust discussion of the contents of a certain book would be yet another healthy way to prevent anti-Semitism from spinning out of control. Which book? Why, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, of course. “I wonder how many of those who have such definite opinions about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion have actually read them?” Galtung writes. “It’s impossible to do so today without thinking of Goldman-Sachs.”

Never mind the plain historical fact that the Protocols have been shown to be a vicious forgery perpetrated by pre-Revolutionary Russian officials out to demonize Jews: Galtung dismisses this with an imperious wave of the hand, on the simple grounds that “it’s hard to believe that the secret Russian police were capable of writing such an analysis.” On this issue, he says, he is in total agreement with Erik Rudstrøm. And who, you might ask, is Erik Rudstrøm? According to Terje Emberland of the Norwegian Holocaust Center, he’s “a known anti-Semite” who has explicitly asserted the authenticity of the Protocols. So there, then.

The other day, after Galtung’s Humanist piece appeared, a reporter for NRK spoke to him by telephone. Galtung was, as it happened, in Washington – a city whose utter destruction he has vividly and gleefully imagined in print, as a just payback for America’s manifold sins. (He is the type of European intellectual who, by consistently demonizing America, has guaranteed himself a steady flow of all-expense-paid invitations to spread his views to American audiences.) Galtung informed NRK’s reporter that he was utterly indifferent to the question of who had actually written the Protocols: all that matters to him, he said, is that there’s so much in them that has extraordinary contemporary relevance. He repeated that he considers it vitally important for people today to read the Protocols and contemplate their profound insights into the present international economic situation. (Remember, we’ve got to do everything we can to keep anti-Semitism from exploding!)

Just one more item from Galtung’s list of things that, in his view, should be the subject of more energetic discussion (with, remember, the pure and noble goal of keeping anti-Semitism from breaking loose): the fact that the CEOs of many top American media organizations – of which he helpfully provides a comprehensive list – are Jewish. (Galtung acknowledges that Rupert Murdoch “is not Jewish,” but adds that “many of his top people are.”) And where did Galtung acquire this list? From what he innocuously identifies as “an article from the U.S.” If you click on his link, however, you will find that the “article from the U.S.,” entitled “Six Jewish companies own 96% of world media,” is in fact marked as originating with the “Pak Alert Press (Pakistan)” and as deriving from a text produced by National Vanguard Books, an imprint of National Vanguard – the American Nazi organization founded by William Pierce.

As if all this weren’t more than repulsive enough, Galtung also serves up, for good measure, quotations from Norman Podhoretz and Ruth Wisse – bothborrowed from Eric Alterman, and both provided to his readers for no other reason, apparently, than to suggest that American Jews’ first loyalty is not to America but to Israel.

What to make of this latest glimpse into Galtung’s mind? The good news is that it was too much even for many members of the Norwegian cultural elite – people whom one might have expected to rush to Galtung’s defense or, at the very least, to turn away uncomfortably and change the subject. For example, Emberland, to his credit, called “On Clear Lines and Ambivalence” a case of “intellectual and moral suicide.”

The bad news is that Galtung, a man with a thoroughly clear and totally unambivalent record of partiality toward despotism and fierce hostility to freedom, was ever considered by anyone in a position of authority to be remotely respectable in the first place. Alas, for all the sound and fury that have greeted his latest horrific rant, one fears that when the hurly-burly’s done, Galtung will turn out to have lost little or none of the rénommé that he has enjoyed throughout his career, and that he will – until he or God puts an end to it all – continue to fill auditoriums, publish prominent op-eds, and bring audiences to their feet.

Bruce Bawer


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