A German-Jewish Zionist Explains Why Anti-Semitism Is All the Same

tags: anti-Semitism, antisemitism

Maxim Biller, a German Jewish writer and journalist, is the author of several novels and short story collections. His writing and fiction has appeared in Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and The New Yorker.

Nothing is as boring as anti-Semitism, at least for Jews. You rule the world, they have heard non-Jews telling them for the last 2,000 years, even if none of you has yet made it to the status of a Roman emperor or a U.S. president. Your religion gets on our nerves, they are told, because you won’t share it with anyone. Although most of you are not observant, you are aware of your Jewish identity all the same, and what the hell does that mean? You’re better than us in bed, and you steal our women. You manage money as well as we wish we could manage it ourselves. You’re so damn clever because you have none of you been illiterate for a hundred generations, which gives you such a head-start on us in life that we can never catch up. And you never get drunk—can that be why you always have everything under control?

And can it be, think the Jews, that you non-Jews might finally begin to sing another song, after making your way with trepidation through the dark forest of the Middle Ages, the early modern period, and the Enlightenment, of European world domination and its downfall, thus trying to dispel your fear of all technical, moral, and political change? No, they can’t do it. Non-Jews can never get enough of their monomaniac and extremely monotonous dislike of Jews. The only interesting aspect of it is to wonder why the Jews always have to suffer for the dismantling of primeval fears—a question that no one has asked for a long time, but that may be of some significance in these times of boycotts of Israeli academics, IS rappers in Berlin-Kreuzberg, smoldering French synagogues, and Erdogan’s exhibitionist sense of revulsion against Jews. Since that little shock about the 6 million deaths, obviously everyone long ago became reconciled to the fact that Jews live dangerously. Perhaps including the Jews.

And how did anti-Semitism come back to Germany, the country that like no other had cast light on its history of pogroms, in a way intended to teach a lesson forever? In its latest, anti-Zionist packaging, it is, of course, a present from the 1968 generation. They fought valiantly against their National Socialist upbringing, they became pacifists, they demanded more democracy from Adenauer’s authoritarian Christian Democratic Union party, they read Eugen Kogon, Hannah Arendt, and Primo Levi, and they wanted Paradise to break out instantly, not only in their own country but all over the world. Yet the metaphysical idea of the brutal Jewish intelligentsia, greedy for blood and money, that had been dinned into them for a thousand years, and in which their parents and relations had believed without any needing any whispered hints from Hitler, was too deeply rooted in their hearts and minds. You had only to see what many Communist party members or old-style Stern journalists were like when drunk.

But what were the unfortunate generation of 1968 and its apostles of 1978 to do about that delightful, ugly, metaphysical hatred of Jews when sober? Thanks to Eichmann there were hardly any Jews left in Germany, and as a good, perfectly structured anti-Fascist you couldn’t be against them anyway. Luckily there was Israel. There was the Six Days War, celebrated by old, upright Nazis and Wehrmacht officers as a homage to all German “lightning wars” since the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, which obviously automatically proved that all Israelis were also militarists, imperialists with totalitarian ideas of a master race. And there were Palestinian Arabs who, in the eyes of the latest German saviors of the world, were at least as badly off because of Israel as the Vietnamese and Latin Americans were because of the Yankees who had tanned Papa’s hide in World War II. And suddenly—surprise, surprise!—the generation of ’68 had found their Jews in the form of Israel.

What was stated 30 years ago only on the left—that Israel was an aggressive, over-powerful, quasi-Fascist state equipped with yesterday’s German ideology of blood and the soil—is today pseudo-liberal mainstream thinking, and the further the CDU slips to the left under Angela Merkel, the sooner members of that party will also be able to enjoy the delights of Israel-bashing that liberate the instincts so well. We can see what the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the central organ (with its huge circulation) of the narcissist German reactionary left, has been saying on this subject for years, publishing anti-Semitic caricatures of Israel as a knife-wielding monster and Mark Zuckerberg as an all-powerful kraken, the unrhymed graffiti of Günter Grass in which that double-tongued veteran of the Waffen-SS accuses Israel of being a threat to world peace, guest columns by writers overtly or covertly sympathetic to Hamas, and above all dozens of comments in its own editorial opinion pieces, holding Israel to blame for everything. After five thousand mainly old and exhausted Russian Jews met at the Brandenburg Gate on 14 September, holding up a few sad placards proclaiming We Are Germany, to show that they would like to spend their last days in the diaspora in peace, the SZ correspondent Constanze von Bullion wrote, triumphantly, that there were hardly any Jews left in Germany anyway, so why the fuss? Instead of demonstrating with them, it would be better to consider and discuss the subject of why the poverty-stricken German Muslims, of all people, distressed by the suffering of children in Gaza, should wish death by Zyklon B gas to the Jews. As an unwitting but not naïve successor of the ’68- generation, she says, of course she knows why, because she herself stands “on the edge.” ...

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