In my more idle moments, which a good guess would be about 99% of my life, I like to see what my twitter following people are twittering about (I know they're not exactly holding their individual breaths waiting for my latest mot. I can tell because I'm being followed by a couple of evangelical marketeers, a dead dog (mine), a pensione in Venice, the Coupon Mom from Alaska, a moon shadow and, so help me, the great Smokey Robinson). Occasionally I venture outside my immediate circle to see what small-minded tweeterer I can self-righteously respond to and thus I found out that I am blocked from seeing J.Podhoretz's tweets.
You have been blocked from following this account at the request of the user.
|what happened to the cute kid?|
I may have insulted his parents but I really don't remember and I was probably too sober to care at the time and yes I should know better than to pick on such easy marks, no matter how disagreeable they are. In any case coming across a Reference (it may have been someone re-tweeted a Jeffrey Goldberg tweet, please don't judge me by this-I was slumming- teasing a small article he wrote in "The Atlantic" about this-http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/tablet-magazines-ghastly-attack-on-holocaust-survivors/259974/) to both Podhoretz fils and the wonderful Katha Pollitt in the same tweet with each reportedly expressing unequivocal outrage over a review - of sorts - of a TV show which I myself have never seen by a young writer I have never read but, as I say, being so happily acquainted with the writings of Ms. Pollitt and (equally) Unhappily acquainted with the repulsive Podhoretz I clicked.
In an atonal riff on the evil-that-men-do Ms. Anna Breslaw is at an experiental disadvantage. The chops-as us tuba players say- are not quite there yet but there's a pathos in the telling . The piece is a harshly realized yet very personal essay that is perhaps far beyond what the TV Show deserves (c'mon its a tv show) and its met with such utter condemnation by seemingly all who have read it - this is something, too, worth asiding, if I can say that, because the review was published in "The Tablet-The Daily Online Magazine of Jewish News, Ideas, and Culture" and considering the astonishing number of Blogs devoted to Jewish stuff and the online proliferation of established Jewish community institutions that have a webpresence who knew people were doing this much reading, let alone watching tv? ( I myself have a few fans in Germany and one or two from a Spanish-speaking nation and they all seem to use the Google translate service with amusing results) The communal contempt is as excruciating to read as is the young writer's confessionary syntax - I recently came across a more sympathetic commentator, Danielle Berrin, the Hollywood Jew Blogger for something called the "Jewish Journal"- http://www.jewishjournal.com/hollywoodjew/item/against_the_holocaust_anna_breslaws_juvenile_gaffe_20120720/
So what did she write that had the scion of Amercia's great Moral arbiters, Norm and Midge, so fired up that Their-boy-John decided himself that "it would be improper to be silent. It is without question the most disgusting piece of anti-semitism I think I've ever read... and the fact that it was written by a Jew trumpeting her connection to the Holocaust only makes it all the more repugnant." This:
Its a heady double-take of some misplaced angst but certainly not to be dismissed as the obnoxious swill that the 260 comments following it maintain. Its an existential kick in the ass and I'm more than intrigued with her reference to Jean Amery who in the second preface to his book wrote movingly about his, well, despair at seeing his "friends" on the Left or the "new" left as it were fail to take on the reactionary regimes after the war and ( Jean Amery was a Survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen whose book "At The Mind's Limits"was subtitled -"Attempts at Overcoming by One Who Is Overcome"
-and posits the personal observation that Auschwitz was a universe ruled by the Logic of Destruction that even death wasn't what it was in other (normal?) worlds as the Final duty of the prisoner was Death, that of an animal for slaughter and at the center of the Nazi program of Genocide was torture and so it would follow that any survivor who came through this hell would be a little warped, his/her personality a little distorted because only the tortured can possess the moral truth of such blows) and even become springboards for Anti-Semitism qua Anti-Zionism and wrote, "It is one of those bad farces of world history that make one doubt the sense of all historical occurrence and in the end despair." (Is Ms Breslaw being accused of DOUBTING?) I have read that by the time of his Suicide Jean Amery was probably one of the most intelligent exemplars (can I say that?) of a writer using his life as a text; and was a relentless pursuer of "self-knowledge", in a constant dialogue with himself, an advocate for Individuality. It is written about Amery that as an assimilated Jew at the time of the Anschluss he could have "passed" as an Aryan, with appropriate papers, but did not because of his love for a Jewish woman who would become his first wife. Amery would later claim, according to Susan Neiman that "Hitler made him a Jew". He also warned that those who are not survivors themselves despite their carefully thought out words could never hope to understand Auschwitz as it would be like a blind person attempting to talk about color (or something like that). Or the attempt may be applicable to a society that sees no absurdity in comfortable suburban Jews driving to the synagogue or mall in their Mercedes or BMWs. (The burden of remembrance is mandated -in Jewish Law, as is the adjuration not to forget. It is more of a command really although I am avoiding the theological discussion here but that's the general idea. Burden is perhaps the wrong word but I leave it because I believe there is a gravitas here that every living Jew is required to carry and the survivors more so of course. Elie Wiesel talks about the terrible onus on the last living survivor and what of the children and their children?) Adam Levick, who writes and edits the inestimable CIF Watch, read the piece and was repulsed. I think he was more turned off by the "justification for destruction" sentiment that is expressed than by the horror of the question the writer poses and her expressed repulsiveness and yet I can't help but think of her words as "tears from a wrath-bearing tree" (and they don't make anti-semites like T.S. Eliot anymore). Still there are things better left unsaid. But the pain (anger? hatred?) behind those words is what all those comments appearing after the article are appalled by- how dare she they all proclaim.
The words that were used to describe Ms. Breslaw and her review included offensive, sophomoric, rambling bullshit, ignorant, disgusting (a few times), sickly twisted, evil, what swill, crock of garbage, insane and crappy, feminist (?), perverse, self-hating - the usual suspects and more and from a goodly number of literate and passionate and knowledgeable readers, I'm sure, from the aforementioned Mr. Levick, to the director of the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust, from non-Jews to children and grand-children of survivors. And yet I wonder if any ( and I'm just trying to connect) of the readers of Ms. Breslaw's words are just as offended by the presence on the same
|She did such a good job in beating the war drums|
that she is now a member of The Council on Foreign
Relations and Fox News
online publication of the ex-NYTimes' reporter, Judith Miller. If the current readers of "The Tablet" are as high-minded and morally built as a John Podhoretz ( I will leave Ms. Pollitt out for now- because I can) then why not protest the contributory presence of a person who traded in her integrity and professional ethics and knowingly and without seemingly any remorse wrote deliberate lies and distortions in presenting the Bush Administration's case for going to war and thereby abetting in the unnecessary deaths of thousands. (Did Judith Miller make Bernard Goldberg's list of people who are screwing up Amercia. Katha Pollitt did) If Anna Breslaw is guilty of expressing the inexpressable in a context too horrible to imagine what of the questions Ms. Miller never asked or was too willing to beat the war drum and shout the war-whoop ( see that Coleridge poem cited earlier on this blog), a war propagandist for hire- where were the private villas and hospitals that were secretly hiding the biological and nuclear weapon facilities that would produce Condi Rice's mushroom clouds? Who held the smallpox virus hostage? Who wrote that "all of Iraq is one large storage facility"? Where are the outrage comments that this cheerleader for unnecessary war is at large on a website supposedly devoted to "Jewish values"? Are we (my fellow yehudim) embarrassed by Ms. Breslaw's public utterances as we are by Ms. Miller's public warmongering and perhaps being an accomplice to murder? And if not, why? But Ms. Breslaw is obscene? I don't see anybody asking "The Tablet" to apologize for Ms. Miller's presence.
|Irving Feldman-A Grand Poet & should be more widely read|
Survivor, who are you?ask the voices that disappeared,
the faces broken and expunged.
I am the one who was not there.
Of such accidents I have made my death. (1)
John Podhoretz doesn't get out much. Lapping up distorted morsels of paranoid pablum at his parent's knees (heavens! what a thought) has brought him fame and famous friends and one suspects a happy pursuit of the delusional power that was so attractive to his pa. But if he hasn't "read anything more anti-semitic" than Anna Breslaw's review then he hasn't read anything. But I'm sure he approved all of what Ms Miller was writing and cheered right along all the way to Baghdad (He decided himself "that it would be improper to be silent"). I don't remember his noisy public protest when his employer, President Reagan, attended a memorial for nazis at Bitburg but then again I don't recall his making any comments anent his other ex-employer George H.W. Bush's nazi connections. I do remember his calling his son the "first great leader of the 21st century." Such a yiddishe kop. His reaction to Ms Breslaw is reminiscent of his father's commentary on Hannah Arendt's report of the Eichmann Trial half a century ago. Now I may be out of line here but the reaction - and not just Johnny-boy's umbrage - did invoke certain gut-defining waves of indignation that summoned up old phrases sounding like "self-hating jewess defends nazis", "in place of the Jew as virtuous martyr, she gives us the Jew as accomplice in evil"; "in place of the confrontation of guilt and innocence, she gives us the collaboration of criminal and victim." These last two structures were found in Commentary magazine , written by John's daddy himself. Needless to say or perhaps for the sake of you younger readers who may have missed this episode in Jewish family quarrels, the Jewish leadership at the time of H. Arendt's
article and subsequent book was quite put out by the woman's arrogance and harsh treatment of the Jewish Leadership in the Nazi controlled ghettoes back then and the survivor groups were quite annoyed- along with many left-leaning historians and Zionists-that there was little attention paid to the Jewish resistance efforts or so they thought.
Should I have been with them
on other winter days in the snow
of the camps and ghettos?
And on the days of their death that was
the acrid Polish air?-(2)
The great Jewish scholar Gershon Sholem had to take his friend, Hannah, to task as he reminded her and us in a letter, "In the Jewish tradition, there is a concept...we know as Ahavath Israel : Love of the Jewish People and in you, dear Hannah, I find little trace of this."
Hannah Arendt wasn't anti-semitic (I read that Leo Strauss once proposed to her!) and neither is Anna Breslaw. Hard as they both can be to read in their individual context and, really, perspectives they have both thrown down the gauntlet for the rest of us to try to understand - for better or worse. John's pop ended his piece with a somewhat plaintive cry, "The Nazis destroyed a third of the Jewish people. In the name of all that is humane, will the remnant never let up on itself?" It was a maudlin thought then and certainly now. And it doesn't help toward any understanding. The irony - and this could be dangerous - is that Commentary and most other "leading" American Jewish periodicals in the two decades after WWII published nary a word about the "Holocaust", as a matter of fact the word itself was hardly uttered among Amercian Jews until about the time of the Eichmann trial and Arendt's articles. Most homegrown Amercian Jews during this time didn't want to know from the slaughter of millions of their fellow Jews and there was little by way of commemoration(s) except by the organized survivor groups here and, of course, it was front and center in Israel. Those years-after the War- the Amercian Jewish leaders and their prestigious publications - like Commentary - had all they could handle to show that not all Jews were Communists. With the exception of a few of the Ultra-Orthodox papers mentioning "The Destruction" I know of only one instance at the time of the Eichmann trial of a genuine proposal to establish a "Jewish Memorial Library"* to honor the six million murdered by the nazis. It was an article written for the American Jewish Congress Bi-Weekly of Nov. 13, 1961, by a Bernard G. Richards.
He proposed it as being part of the new Lincoln Center then in its blue-print stage, "to preserve the memory of our martyred dead and to perpetuate the beliefs and ideals for which they died."
The site of Lincoln Center would have been most fitting because
"In a real sense, all culture is a monument: ..a monumental artistic and humanitarian enterprise such as Lincoln Center should embody within its precincts a memorial to the six million...In preserving the record, in furthering the knowledge of these tragic, indeed unprecedented events, the proposed Memorial Library would serve both history and literature."
Richards invoke the great Jewish historian Simon Dubnov, and talked of another martyred scholar, Israel Friedlander, he called attention to the still-developing Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the fact that the Jews of France and England, and other lands, Canada, of course, were gathering their collections so why shouldn't Amercia. He even cited historical and religious precedent for such an undertaking. The article even found itself a news item - however slight - in the pages of the New York Times, Nov. 17, 1961. And then ___Nothing. It is best to recall that, all in all, Lincoln Center was a result of the new urban thinking and planning of one Robert Moses, another Leader - and certainly nothing of this stature would see the light of day as long as he had anything to say (I always wanted to ask Robert Caro about this). I wonder if his mentor, Mrs. Moskowitz would have approved (see previous post).
What can I say?
Dear ones, what can I say?
You died, and emptied the streets
and my breath, and went from my seeing.(3)
(There's more to this but I'm afraid the mass-murder in Colorado has put a stopper on this thought for now. I wanted to tie in Sheldon Adelson and a few others but there will be time. As for Anna Breslaw- do we hang her from the highest yardarm or send her back to school? )
(1, 2, 3) - "To the Six Million" by Irving Feldman