January 17, 2019

When Literary Heroes Are Anti-Semites

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot

In the middle of Hannah Gadsby’s provocative new Netflix stand-up comedy special, she launches into a diatribe against Pablo Picasso. To be clear: She really hates him. Not for his early figurative work, his temporary overreliance on the color blue or even his unapologetic appropriation of African art. No, she despises him because he treated women badly. Which he did. No argument there. But what Gadsby, who has a background in art history, argues is that her target’s considerable and universally acknowledged artistic accomplishments are entirely — not partially, mind you, but entirely — vitiated by what she takes to be his misogyny. The implication being that we should immediately rip down our Picassos and deposit them in the trash. 

This got me thinking about a problem I’ve had since I was 18 and read “The Great Gatsby” for the first time. I was luxuriating in Fitzgerald’s prose, in thrall to his storytelling ability, understanding as if for the first time what bracing heights the English language was capable of scaling, when the character of Meyer Wolfsheim slithered on to the page and a queasy feeling overcame me.

Wolfsheim was grotesque and Jewish. This was not good. Would a more appealing Jew soon appear to take some of the stink off Wolfsheim and let me get back to enjoying the novel? Perhaps the Buchanans would have a tennis date with the Feldmans from nearby Great Neck, Long Island. But the Feldmans never showed up. Wolfsheim remained the only Jew in the book and this made me apprehend Fitzgerald in a different, more complex way.

The issue soon arose again in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” when I encountered the character of Robert Cohn. Although not an oily gangster like Wolfsheim, the Princeton graduate Cohn is whiny, annoying and presented in pointed contrast to the gentile hero.

Soon after, upon discovering poet T.S. Eliot, my head began to hurt. “Burbank With a Baedeker: Bleistein With a Cigar,” anyone? 

The rats are underneath the piles.

The jew is underneath the lot.

Wolfsheim, Cohn & Bleistein: The names scan like a law firm of literary anti-Semitism, created by writers whom the callow version of me hoped to emulate. And it got worse. Whereas the anti-Semitism of Hemingway and Fitzgerald was of the country club variety, and Eliot’s ontological (therefore more dangerous), I soon discovered that French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Nobel Prize-winner Knut Hamsun of Norway not only were virulently anti-Semitic but embraced Nazism. In other words, there was a continuum, a spectrum of aesthetic jew-hating. What to make of the work generated by these flawed authors when the quality is unimpeachable but the creator’s morals of the gutter? 

Would that the problem be confined to literature. Consider painters. Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, 19th-century French masters I was taught in undergraduate art history classes to venerate, turned out to be anti-Dreyfusards. In their era, where a person stood on the Dreyfus case was an indication of their attitude about Jews in general. Emile Zola was a champion. The aforementioned Impressionists were not. Who would have thought that Renoir, painter of rosy-cheeked, Parisian bourgeois life, avatar of sunlight, leisure and beauty harbored hatred for his Jewish countrymen? How can I ever look at another one of his candy-colored canvases? But I do. That I don’t admire him the way I used to has to do with the development of my own taste, not his views of my co-religionists.

Wolfsheim, Cohn & Bleistein: The names scan like a law firm of literary anti-Semitism, created by writers whom the callow version of me hoped to emulate.

Which brings me to Mel Gibson. 

Gibson is appalling. I feel about him the way Gadsby feels about Picasso. This was not always so. I admired “Gallipoli,” “The Road Warrior” and “The Year of Living Dangerously.” Thought “Braveheart” deserved all the love it received. But after Gibson had a few drinks and revealed what he really felt about Jews (To refresh your memory: “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”)  — that was it for Mel and me.

Then there’s Leni Riefenstahl, an actual Nazi. I can watch her films and appreciate their artistry, but that is probably because while watching her films, I’m not looking at her smug Aryan face. Also, she’s dead. How can I watch the films of Hitler’s pal, but not those of Mel Gibson? The “Breathing the Same Air Theory” posits that once someone is no longer living, the moral opprobrium we heap upon them is allowed to lapse if we so choose. 

My friend Tom recently asked me why is it that we insist our artists be good neighbors. Indeed, the cultural conversation has been reframed in a way that forces us to examine our assumptions about artists we admire. And the verdicts are in: Roman Polanski, done. Kevin Spacey, don’t ask. Louis C.K.? Although the comedian has pockets of support, his attempted comeback has been greeted in mostly withering fashion. Some who have banished these men from their personal queues feel virtuous for taking a stand against the violation of agreed-upon mores; others just feel lingering revulsion. But at what cost? 

When we engage with a work of art, what is it we’re seeking? Insight, transcendence of our day-to-day lives, certainly, but perhaps, most of all, we’re seeking connection to the mind, the heart, the soul of another. This is why we who value artistic achievement revere those who create work that strongly affects us. Engaging with a work of art is to discard the protective carapace and open one’s being to that of the creator (lower-case c) so when we discover something reprehensible — misogyny, violence, anti-Semitism — it not only knocks the artist off the pedestal on which we’ve placed them but causes a sense of betrayal similar to that which can be felt at the hands of a lover. Then we re-assess.

What Polanski did, and what C.K. and Spacey are accused of doing, was reprehensible. But I’ll watch “Chinatown” again, watch C.K.’s comeback with interest, and continue to admire Spacey’s work in “L.A. Confidential” and the first season of “House of Cards.” But what of the anti-Semites? I’m still a fan of “The Sun Also Rises,” although if I had known Hemingway when he lived in Paris, I probably would have wanted to punch him in the nose. Fitzgerald? I re-read “Gatsby” every few years and only esteem it more. My admiration for “Four Quartets” even enables me to rise above Eliot’s anti-Semitism, which verges on the demented, although that didn’t stop him from participating in a fruitful correspondence with Groucho Marx, of whom he was a big fan. 

See, it’s personal. That’s how we relate to a painting, a poem, a movie, a pop song, a novel or an opera — I have to mention opera because it’s impossible to conclude a rumination like this without invoking Nazi avatar Richard Wagner, whose work has been performed by the Israel Philharmonic. Imagine the conversation those musicians had! If we conjure a socio-political prism through which every work of art must be viewed, rather than curators of our experience, we become the commissars of that experience and run the risk of a considerably blander world. 

That said, I can live without seeing “Lethal Weapon” again.

Seth Greenland is the author of five novels, including his most recent, “The Hazards of Good Fortune,” (Europa Editions, 2018). Greenland is also a playwright and screenwriter and has worked as a writer-producer for the Emmy-nominated HBO drama “Big Love.” Born in New York City, he currently lives in Los Angeles. sethgreenland.com 

Donald Trump’s third strike

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017. Picture taken August 11, 2017. Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via REUTERS.

I spent last Saturday night — the night of the neo-Nazi rally and the tragic murder — at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, watching a fine performance of Eugene Ionesco’s  “Rhinoceros.” The play takes place in a French village, where the drunkard Berenger is witness to something bizarre: slowly, the townsfolk are turning into rhinos. Ionesco, whose mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family, wrote the play based on his experiences in Romania in the 1930s, when, one by one, his social circle turned on him and embraced fascist leaders and their ideologies.

I was still reeling from the astonishing fact that President Donald Trump had just equated white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK with the people who took to the streets to stop them. Earlier that day, Trump refused to name and shame these people even after one of them allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

What was happening onstage paralleled the world outside.

Onstage, the protagonist Berenger explains to his girlfriend, Daisy, one way the rhinos multiply.

“Sometimes one does harm without meaning to,” he says, “or rather one allows it to go unchecked.”

And when Berenger’s co-worker dismisses accounts that the streets are now filled with citizens-turned-rhinos, Berenger shows him the morning headlines.

“I never believe journalists,” Botard says. “They’re all liars. I don’t need them to tell me what to think; I believe what I see with my own eyes.”

The audience didn’t know whether to clap, laugh or groan — I heard all three.

By the end of the play, all the townsfolk but Berenger become rhinos. Some because that’s what they want. Some because the radio is broadcasting nothing but rhino messages. Some because everyone else is. What appeared grotesque in Act 1 seems perfectly normal by Act 3.

“We must adapt ourselves and try and get on with them,” Daisy says when only she and Berenger are left unchanged.  “After all, perhaps it is we who need saving. Perhaps we are the abnormal ones.”

It was no accident the PRT chose to mount Ionesco’s 1959 classic. In his recent treatise “On Tyranny,” historian Timothy Snyder uses the play as his proof text of how democratic societies go dark.

“Ionesco’s aim was to help us see just how bizarre propaganda actually is, but how normal it seems to those who yield to it,” Snyder writes. “By using the absurd image of the rhinoceros, Ionesco was trying to shock people into noticing the strangeness of what was actually happening. The Rhinoceri are roaming through our neurological savannahs. … And now, as then, many people confused faith in a hugely flawed leader with the truth about the world we all share. Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

When the play originally came out, it was a sensation in Israel — a country whose populace was still reeling from a European outbreak of “rhinoceritis.” Soon, there was even a Hebrew word, hitcarnfut, from the root for “horn,” to describe someone who falls under the spell of any beastly ism. The Jews figured there needed to be a word for it, since what are the odds it wouldn’t happen again?

After the cast took a much-deserved curtain call, I went home and stared at the images of the neo-Nazis who marched and killed in Charlottesville. It made what the president said – and kept saying— even less excusable.

It was a march organized by a nationwide group of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, America Firsters and Confederate throwbacks that spurred the violence in the first place.  They converged on Charlottesville sporting swastikas and swaddled in Confederate flags, emblazoned with the latest in 1930s Fascist emblems. They carried semi-automatic weapons and sported militia costumes. Their ostensible cause was to protest the long-planned transfer of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a town square to a town park.

The marchers alternated chants of, “You will not replace us!” with “Jews will not replace us!” They intimidated Jewish reporters and chanted the Nazi straight-outta-Nuremberg slogan “Blood and Soil!”  One of the flyers that brought out the crowds featured a “Unite the Right!” slogan and a Star of David.

When counterprotesters came out to thwart them, things got ugly. Maybe it would have been cleaner had the counterprotesters stood by and waited for the wannabes to pass, but Jews tried that in the 1930s and it didn’t work out so well. That fact alone gave the president a perfect opportunity to pick sides: either the guys with swastikas and Nazi slogans and guns, or the people standing up to them.

In the immediate aftermath, Trump refused to choose.

After waiting far too long, he made a statement. He condemned violence “on many sides.” If it wasn’t clear that he was apportioning blame equally between the people who marched in support of slavery and killing Jews and those who opposed them, he repeated that phrase, “on many sides.”

Trump — the father and grandfather and father-in-law of Jews — refused to blame the neo-Nazis.

“I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that someone more capable will come along,” rally co-organizer Christopher Cantwell told VICE News, “somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew…. I don’t think you can feel about race the way I do, and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.”

These were the people Donald Trump, best friend of the Jews,  refused to hold accountable. Refused to threaten them with anywhere near the fire and fury he uses to lash out at North Korea, James Comey, Sen. Mitch McConnell, CNN or The New York Times.


It was no less than a betrayal.

I’ve disagreed with other presidents, Democrats and Republicans. I’ve protested their policies. But I never felt that any of them betrayed me. This wasn’t a close call. It was lob across home plate, which in this case stands for human decency and patriotism.

But Trump couldn’t do it.

Instead of slapping back the instigators of all this violence, my president gave them cover to go on. The protestors were able to tell themselves, “We’re no worse than them — even the president said so.” In one statement after another, Trump leveled the playing field between good and evil.

It was a missed opportunity. The movement, such as it is, is still miniscule. There weren’t that many of them — maybe 1,000? The amount of media attention they sucked up was far out of proportion to their importance or danger.  That same weekend, nine people were killed and 30 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago. Zero national coverage.

But that even made the president’s task more important.  Calm the country, call out these miscreants for what they are, and focus our attention on more pressing matters. This was the time to brush them back, to rally the better angels before things get out of hand.

The reaction to Trump’s shameful statement was swift and bipartisan.

Republican Sen. John McCain tweeted, “White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors — Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry.”  Republican Sen. Ted Cruz called for a federal hate crime prosecution.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose founder Rabbi Marvin Hier gave a benediction at Trump’s inauguration, said in a statement, “We call upon all American leaders, whatever their political affiliations, led by President Trump, to specifically condemn the extreme alt-right and white nationalists who sow seeds of hate, distrust and violence.”

“”When I was a kid,” the actor Joshua Malina tweeted, “the Nazis were the bad guys.”

For years, Trump and his supporters accused President Barack Obama of refusing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” Although Obama repeatedly condemned the terrorists — and put a bullet through the head of their leader, Osama bin Laden — he opened himself to the entirely valid criticism that by not naming the problem, you avoid the problem.

But here Trump was doing the exact same thing, refusing to name and condemn the terrorists in his own backyard.

Forty-eight hours after his first statement, Trump read off his second. The headline in The New York Times — two full days after Charlottesville — read, “Trump, Bowing to Pressure, Rebukes White Supremacists.”

I read it twice. It’s 2017. And everything you need to know about what’s sideways about America is between those two commas: “Bowing to pressure.

What does it say about the president of the United States of America that getting him to name and shame white supremacists is like getting him to say “uncle?”

“Racism is evil,” President Trump read from his TelePrompTer from the White House, “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and other hate groups who are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

It was better, like any do-over. But the white supremacists on the internet said he was doing it just to calm the critics or to kowtow to them.

“He said EVERYONE INVOLVED will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. that includes Antifa and BLM,” one pro-Trump Reddit user wrote, referring to anti-fascists and Back Lives Matter.

“By ‘other hate groups,’ ” wrote someone on the neo-Nazi Stormfront site, “he means the real hate groups in America, the Anti-White ones.”

This was something the neo-Nazis and the rest of humanity agreed upon: Trump’s second statement was for show, the first for real.

John Podhoretz, writing in Commentary, ventured a guess as to why. These same protesters, he said, represented the solid core or Trump’s supporters, the people who gave him the initial oomph in his race for president.

And that core, Podhoretz wrote, “is governed by rage, hatred, a sense of being wronged, and the loathing of others due to race and national origin. They are numerically insignificant to a man who secured 63 million votes in November 2016. But he … seems to feel they are necessary to the constitution of his core. And he basically let them off with a mild warning.”

They are young — the murder suspect himself was just 20 years old. Their world is a digital echo chamber. On Facebook and Reddit, their posts and comments are a Freudian playground of thwarted desire and sexual insecurity. Everyone not them is “gay” or a “faggot” or “cuck,” the alt-right put-down meaning cuckold. In their sexual obsession, their need for belonging and their delusions of Jewish dominance, these young men are not so different from the lost, horny and hate-filled ISIS fighters they must despise.

And why the Jews? How did we get dragged into a dispute over Robert E. Lee? Yes, Charlotteville Mayor Michael Signer, who stood up to the mob and showed the president what leadership looks like, happens to be Jewish. But that’s a coincidence; the obsession predates him. In fact, it’s astonishing that no matter how the leaders of the alt-right try to pretty up the movement, its true, ugly credo wills out.   It’s the Jews’ fault.

A day after the violence, far-right talk radio lunatic Alex Jones claimed that the right-wing protesters who caused the violence were actually “Jewish actors,” who infiltrated the ranks to make the movement look bad.

“Nothing against Jews in general,” Jones said, “ but there are leftist Jews that want to create this clash and they go dress up as Nazis. I have footage in Austin … where it literally looks like the cast of ‘Seinfeld’ or like Howard Stern in a Nazi outfit… it’s all just meant to create the clash.”

These were the voices Trump bowed to on Tuesday, Aug. 15, when he took to the microphone again – to double down on his original equivocation.

“You had very fine people in both groups,” he said at a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

When reporters repeatedly pressed him on whether he was equating neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters, the President made it clear: he was.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at ’em – excuse me,” he said.

Was Trump on to something?  No. According to an Anti-Defamation League study, of at least 372 murders that were committed by domestic extremists between 2007 and 2016, 74 percent were committed by right-wing extremists and 24 percent by Muslim extremists. Left-wing extremists? 2 percent.

Later, Trump compared Robert E. Lee, a traitor who fought to tear apart the United States that Trump is president of, with George Washington, who fought to liberate and create the country.

When it was over, KKK leader David Duke couldn’t have been happier.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” he tweeted.

There’s no real way to explain this lunacy other than to look back. A not especially creative crowd can’t invent a new enemy, so it steals an old one.

“The rats are still down there in the sewers, brooding,” says Jean Tarrou in Albert Camus’ “The Plague,” “and the Plague is still down there with them, and that Plague will one day again send up its rats to die once more on the streets of a free city … ”

You don’t get rid of hate; you just have to be prepared, always, to fight it. It appears we now have to do battle with a feckless president. Will he ever develop a spine? Will he ever stand for the values of his party, much less America?

Or will he continue to equivocate as the plague spreads to engulf us all? Who knows? As Ionesco himself once said, “You can only predict things after they have happened.”

Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site, forced offline by Google, heads to the dark web

Andrew Anglin runs the anti-Semitic Daily Stormer website. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The neo-Nazi and white supremacist site The Daily Stormer has moved its domain to the dark web after Google and GoDaddy forced it offline.

Google booted the site, known as one of the internet’s most prominent anti-Semitic outlets, from its domain name service on Monday for running an article smearing Heather Heyer, the victim of the car ramming at the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. The GoDaddy domain platform, which Daily Stormer had been using since 2013, had done the same on Sunday. Both said the site violated their terms of service.

On Tuesday, Motherboard reported that some Twitter users were sharing links to a dark web version of the site.

“The dark web site seems to function in much the same way as the original, with posts on recent events and other content,” Joseph Cox reported.

Users may have to download Tor software, which gives access to certain anonymous sites on the dark web — the collection of networks that use the internet but function outside the realm of normal domain name providers — to find The Daily Stormer in its current form.

The Daily Stormer’s article on Heyer, 32, drew waves of criticism for calling her a “fat,” “childless” “slut.”

Andrew Anglin, the site’s founder, has not publicly commented on his plans for the site, which played a role in organizing Saturday’s protests.

On August 13, Daily Stormer was supposedly hacked by Anonymous, a collective of worldwide hackers who gained national attention in 2008 when they hacked the Church of Scientology website. The Daily Stormer hacking job was made public with a post, which read:


A few hours later, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin posted a follow-up:

Anglin Here. I’ve Retaken Control of the Site. The Daily Stormer Never Dies.

Since the fiasco, Anonymous has taken to Twitter to rebuke the claims of an alleged hack. “Seriously, suck less,” they tweeted to Daily Stormer in response.

The Independent was the first to note that the “hacking job” came after the neo-Nazi website was notified by its server GoDaddy that it would be shut down in 24 hours after violating their terms of service.

On August 13, Daily Stormer posted a hateful article about Heather Heyer, a victim of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, titled: Heather Heyer: Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut.


French rabbi receives threat to ‘punish’ Jews for complaining

The chief rabbi of Lyon,  Richard Wertenschlag, has received a letter threatening to “punish a Jew for every complaint the Jews make on TV.”

The threat came in a two-page letter delivered to Wertenschlag on Aug. 10. It contained two photos of a concentration camp, according to Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, CRIF.

Wertenschlag, who reported the letter to the authorities, opened the letter on Aug. 12, according to CRIF.

The authors of the “small, dense handwritten text” signed with the words “the righteous network.”

They added, “Every time you go on television to complain, a Jew – man, woman, child or family – will be punished.” Further down, the authors wrote: “See you soon at a synagogue, which has already been chosen.”

Wertenschlag called the letter “the expression of anti-Semitic rage and unimaginable hate.”

He said he had received an earlier hate letter in April, which was both “anti-Semitic and anti-Arab,” but decided not to go to police at the time.

Last month French police arrested two youths in Lyon for allegedly attacking a 17-year-old Jewish boy.

The boy is a student at Ozar Hatorah, a Jewish school in Toulouse where, on March 19, a Muslim extremist murdered three children and a rabbi.

Police look into anti-Semitic bullying incident in Northern Ireland

Police in Northern Ireland are investigating claims of anti-Semitic bullying of a boy with Asperger syndrome.

Matthew Lough, 14, told the BBC that he had been bullied at his County Antrim school since revealing during a class on the Holocaust that his great-grandmother was Jewish.

He said one boy was suspended after Lough was hit in the head and knocked to the ground. Police told the BBC on Thursday that they are investigating a March 14 assault.

Others, Lough and his mother told the BBC, have attached swastikas to his school bags and have taunted him with anti-Semitic epithets.

His mother, Sharon Lough, credited the school, Carrickfergus College, with taking swift action, but was concerned at the persistence of the anti-Semitism.

“He has been very unsettled at night-time, having nightmares,” she told the broadcaster. “I would never, ever tell my children not to mention their heritage, because they are so proud of it. I would never deny my Jewish heritage, never.”

Former Phoenix principal sues over gas chamber exhibit

A black Jewish woman is suing the Phoenix school where she formerly served as principal for failing to respond to complaints about a fake gas chamber set up outside her office and then firing her.

Millicent McNeil, who was fired from the Mission Charter School last May 13, filed a $2 million lawsuit in Maricopa County Court claiming that she was underpaid because of her race and religion, and that the school ignored her complaints about the gas chamber, which was part of a Holocaust exhibit, Courthouse News reported.

She alleges that teachers at the K-8 school, saying they were setting up a Holocaust exhibit, made her hallway and office door into an entrance to a faux gas chamber. McNeil says they painted a swastika on the wall outside her door, painted her door black and placed a photo next to the door of a lever that would activate a gas chamber.

McNeil also claims that the teachers wrote “Majdanek Bad Und Desinfektion,” or “Majdanek Bath And Disinfection,” above the door—imitating the sign for gas chambers at the Majdanek concentration camp—and the German word for “women” directly over the door.

Contacted by JTA, a school official had no comment on the case.

Briefs: Professor criticised for ‘hate speech’ at CSULB; Purim is fun and sober for L.A. teens

Professor Scolded for ‘Hate Speech’ at CSULB

The Jewish Studies Program at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) last week reprimanded Kevin MacDonald, a professor at the university whose writings on race are popular with anti-Semites and white supremacists, for views that are “professionally irresponsible and morally untenable.”

“We wish to make it clear that in no way do we wish to impede Dr. MacDonald’s First Amendment rights or interfere with his academic freedom,” the letter stated. “But just as he has the freedom of speech to advance his white nationalist agenda, so too do we have the freedom of speech to deplore his prejudicial views of Jews and non-whites and state that Dr. MacDonald’s writings on white ethnocentrism, Jews, race, and immigration do not enjoy the respect of many of his colleagues.”

Signed by the programs co-directors, Arlene Lazarowitz and Jeffrey Blutinger, and history professor Donald Schartz, the letter urged CSULB administration to distance itself from MacDonald.

“In the 14 years that he has been writing this stuff, no institution on campus — no department, no program, no college or the university — has ever issued a statement about him. The only thing the university has ever done about Kevin MacDonald is they have given him a sabbatical. We feel that it is time the university stood up and said something,” Blutinger said. “We are leading by example.”

An evolutionary psychologist, MacDonald is best known for his claim that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy” that allows its members to succeed by undermining other groups, such as white Europeans. This argument was published in a three-volume series named after the final book, “The Culture of Critique.”

“Not since Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ have anti-Semites had such a comprehensive reference guide to what’s wrong with ‘the Jews,'” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported last year.

In a lengthy response, MacDonald wrote that the Jewish program accurately characterized his belief in the need for a white “ethno-state” and failed to refute his argument.

“The claim that the best way to defend ethnic interests is to develop an ethnostate certainly reflects the reality of ethnic relations in the last century or so,” MacDonald wrote. “Jews of all people should understand the attraction of establishing an ethnostate.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Sober, but Joyous, Purim for L.A. Teens

More than 600 Los Angeles teens attended Purim parties this year thrown by an Orthodox youth group intent on showing the kids a festive holiday while keeping them sober and off the streets.

Because drinking alcohol is a ritual part of celebrating Purim, teens often find easy access to liquor and wine on the holiday, which in the past has led to some dangerous and illegal activities. This year, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) of the Orthodox Union sponsored Purim parties.

“Teens are out there looking for ways to celebrate Purim. We needed to create a responsible venue to compete against unsupervised and potentially harmful experiences,” said Rabbi Effie Goldberg, West Coast director of NCSY.

About 100 teens gathered for an NCSY bash, complete with live band, at Golan Restaurant in North Hollywood. At Congregation B’nai David-Judea on Pico Boulevard, about 500 teens celebrated with a costume contest, dancing, arcade games and a Wii competition. No alcohol was allowed in, and inebriated teens were turned away.

Aleinu Family Resource Center, a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles that serves primarily the Orthodox community, launched an “Absolut Choice” campaign. The organization sent out 7,000 postcards offering parents pointers for talking to their teens about celebrating Purim responsibly and the dangers of binge drinking. At synagogues on Purim, Aleinu distributed 3,500 water bottles with an “Absolut Choice” label that included information on the dangers of rapid drinking and drinking and driving.

In addition, Hatzolah emergency first response service put up posters around synagogues and other venues warning of the dangers of binge drinking, and rabbis urged people not to serve minors drinks as they went door to door delivering Purim baskets or collecting money for charity.

“I believe Purim was a safer Purim in Los Angeles this year,” said Debbie Fox, Aleinu director. “When the community works together, we have a safer community.”

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Israel At 60 Bash to Raise Funds for Sderot

Shalhevet High School students are organizing a community festival on March 30 for Israel’s 60th birthday.

Fully student-run, the carnival will include a live performance from the Moshav Band, Israeli vendors, kosher food, a petting zoo and rides. Maxine Renzer, 11th grade student co-chairperson of the school’s Israel Action Committee, has planned the event over the past four months along with three other students. Last year the festival raised more than $3,000, and this year they hope to raise much more, Renzer said.

“The Jewish people at this time are going through a lot of hardships, and we need to help in any way we can, especially students,” she said. “If this is how we can help, it will be an amazing thing,” she said.

The event, co-sponsored by StandWithUs, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, Beth Jacob Congregation, NCSY, Bnei Akiva and The Jewish Journal, will have its funds matched by an anonymous donor, with proceeds going to Table to Table, an Israeli organization that helps feed the hungry in Sderot.

For more information, call Shalhevet High School at (323) 930-9333.

— Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer

Children, Adults Spice Up Summer Activities With Yachad

The Orthodox Union’s Yachad National Jewish Council for the Disabled is offering summer programs for developmentally disabled children and adults to participate in travel, sports, arts and drama. Yachad’s offerings include a two-week “Yachad Getaway” to New York for ages 18 and older. Campers will stay on a private estate and can choose from daily activities such as swimming, dancing, baking and creative arts projects.

Attendees can learn how to become coaches or counselors and are placed in positions suiting their specific abilities.

For Ilan, a Eulogy

This week marks the shloshim, the 30th day following the death of Ilan Halimi, murdered by French anti-Semites in a Paris suburb.

“Pour Ilan” — this is what the sign says, held by demonstrators in a quiet march, in Paris, in your memory. Pour Ilan, Ilan Halimi, my newly fallen son.

When I weep for you, I weep for my son Daniel, too — your brother in pain — two treasures crushed in the claws of history. When I weep for you, I weep with my burned face, with my hands tied behind my back, with my screaming mind — my sanity that was shattered when the doors of heavens slammed your life.

They rush to your memorial, the politicians, the dignitaries and Jewish leaders, too. They talk about joblessness, crime, jealousy and greed.

“They believe,” and I quote, “that ‘Jews have money'” said Interior Minister Sarkozy.

They always speak about “them” — the criminals, the barbarians — rarely about themselves. About the silence and tacit encouragement that have created this climate in France, where a gang of youngsters would choose to target Jews over other preys. A climate in which torturing a Jew is considered a lesser form of cruelty than the unimaginable.

“We tortured him because he was a Jew,” said one of the abductors last week.

How did this climate of inhumanity infiltrate a country that gave the world liberty, equality and brotherhood? Ilan did not ask his captors this question — he knew the answer.

He understood that empathy emanates from the dignity and respect that society extends to its members. And he knew firsthand that while some members of the French Jewish community have risen to prominence, Jews, as a collective, have not enjoyed standard dignity and respect — they have been villainized and dehumanized in all strata of French society as no other group has.

Of course, only Israelis are dehumanized today in the French media, not all Jews — France is a modern country, and it knows the rules of post-World War II discourse.

Likewise, French Jews are no longer accused of killing God’s son or Christian boys; they are now villainized for one and only one crime: loving and caring for that “shitty little country,” as French Ambassador Bernard called Israel, a country that, according to a 2005 survey, the majority of Europeans consider “the greatest threat to world peace.”

Ilan’s misfortune was that the gangsters of Bagneux were quick to discover what every child in Europe knew all along — who causes the troubles in the world and who can be bashed with impunity.

It is safe for us to talk about the gangsters of Bagneux, not so safe to talk about the French media. But, if the death of Ilan Halimi is to have a meaningful and permanent mark on our consciousness, it is vital that we examine all sacred pillars of society.

By licensing unrestrained assaults against Israel and Zionism, two cherished symbols of French Jewry, and denying the Jewish community a fair opportunity to make the case for Israel, the media has effectively turned French Jewry into social outcasts. This, coupled with classical anti-Semitic broadcasts pouring over from Middle East channels, offers some explanation for the barbaric and inexplicable inhumanity of Ilan’s abductors.

Indeed, how can the residents of Bagneux respect the life of Ilan, if he cherishes the Magen David — the most despised symbol in all of Europe, barring the Swastika. A symbol that, for more than a decade, French media refused to associate with any praiseworthy idea.

How could they remain deaf, for 20 long days, to his infinite screams, blended with his mother’s pleas over the phone? Unless they convinced themselves that this young man deserved subhuman treatment, either by virtue of belonging to the “despised,” or as a cousin to those “monstrous Israeli soldiers” they repeatedly saw on TV, intentionally killing Palestinian children.

Or, perhaps they were reminded of that video (now suspected of being forged) of the dying Palestinian child Muhammad Al Dura that the television station France 2 was so eager to air in September 2000. Not one time, but day after day, night after night, with stubbornness and perseverance that only bigotry can sustain. So eager in fact that it found its way to the hands of Daniel Pearl’s murderers in Pakistan and was used in their gruesome video to justify the murder — a grim reminder of the consequences of irresponsible journalism.

But let us dig a bit deeper. How can the good citizens of Bagneux muster the courage to tell their gangster neighbors: “Stop!” when they see around them a culture of capitulation, deceit and herd pressure? A culture where frightened teachers yield to students refusing Holocaust classes, where police do not see what the government does not approve, where politicians vie with each other to proclaim the Paris riots void of religious or cultural undercurrents and where the one writer who suggests otherwise is harshly rebuked by his peers as racist. A culture where the darling of European philosophers, Tariq Ramadan, defines sympathy for a beleaguered Israel as betrayal of universal values, and where that same philosopher proclaims the West “morally bankrupt” to the mesmerized admiration of his Western colleagues.

Oh, Ilan and Daniel, two beautiful sons of the West, intellectuals and barbarians have gathered again to challenge the vitality of your moral heritage. Remind them who you are. You, two principled disciples of Abraham, Socrates and Jeremiah; two proud emissaries of Aquinas, Rashi and Galileo; two burning torches of Rousseau and Jefferson, Hertzl and Einstein; tell them what they refuse to see on your charred bodies: That Western civilization ain’t ready to surrender, that youngsters like you attest its strength and vitality, that “bankruptcy” is not in your vocabulary. And, finally, that your legacy will witness the downfall of your murderers. It will!

Danny and Ilan, my two fallen sons, it was not the barbarians alone who killed you; some twisted intellectuals were there all along, spreading the fuel while watching the barbarians light the fuse. They killed you because you are the soul of Western civilization, a soul they chose to disown.

Let there be no silence on your grave, Ilan, no rest, nor learned discussion till the racist climate of your murder stands trial in the court of history. Until another Zola rises with a lauder “J’accuse”, and this culture of deceit goes down in infamy, as did the Dreyfus Affair and the Munich Treaty.

Yitgadal Ve’Yitkadash Shmai Rabah.

Judea Pearl is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (


Brothers Sentenced

Two brothers, both self-proclaimed anti-Semites and white supremacists, have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for the June 1999 firebombings of three synagogues near Sacramento.

Following their guilty pleas, Benjamin Matthew Williams, 33, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and James Tyler Williams, 31, to 21 years and 3 months. They were ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution to the three synagogues.

The sentencing came at the end of an emotional two-and-a-half-hour hearing Nov. 30 in a Sacramento federal courtroom.

The brothers will go on trial next April in the slaying of a homosexual couple two weeks after the torching of the synagogues and of an abortion clinic. State prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

Hardest hit by the arson attacks was Congregation B’nai Israel, a Reform temple that sustained more than $1 million in damages. Last year, the temple celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Substantial damage also was suffered by Congregation Beth Shalom, also Reform, in suburban Carmichael, and Kenesset Israel Torah Center, an Orthodox synagogue.

At two of the synagogues, the perpetrators left leaflets proclaiming that the "International Jew World Order" and the "International Jewsmedia" started the war in Kosovo.

Rabbis and other Jewish leaders confronted the convicted arsonists before their sentencing.

After receiving permission from U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to address the defendants, Rabbi Brad Bloom of Congregation B’nai Israel told them, "Your hatred and anti-Semitism will never prevail. Ironically, it strengthened the determination of the entire community to make no room for bigotry." A unity rally of all faiths and races in Sacramento after the synagogue attacks drew 5,000 people and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the shuls.

Bloom said the Williams brothers represented "a continuum of anti-Semitic perpetrators" from Babylonian and Egyptian times through Russian pogroms and Nazi atrocities.

"Yes, we have known the Williams brothers for a long time," media reports quoted Bloom as saying.

Len Feldman, vice chairman of Sacramento’s Jewish Community Relations Council, said the firebombing "forced me to explain to my two children a world I had hoped had been left behind."

Rabbi Yosef Etzhasadeh of the Kenesset Israel Torah Center lamented the trial’s failure to explore all the evidence, which, he said, might have exposed the brothers’ accomplices.

The elder Williams smirked though part of the admonitions. Both he and his brother declined the judge’s invitation to talk about their crimes or express remorse.

While held in prison, the voluble elder Williams initiated a series of press interviews in which he declared his readiness to be executed as a "Christian martyr" whose death would spur increased attacks on Jews, homosexuals and various minority groups.

Matthew and Tyler Williams — they are known by their middle names — worked as landscapers in Northern California. In a search of their home, investigators found a hit list with 32 names, mostly of Sacramento Jewish leaders but including Marc Klein, editor and publisher of the San Francisco-based Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.

The Williams’ arson attacks were the opening shots in what has been termed a "summer of hate," which included a shooting spree that wounded five at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills.

Anti-SemitesPlead Guilty to Firebombing

Two brothers, both self-proclaimed anti-Semites and white supremacists, pleaded guilty Sept. 7 to firebombing three synagogues in the Sacramento area two years ago.

Benjamin Matthew Williams, 33, considered the instigator in the attacks, faces 30 years in federal prison. His brother, James Tyler Williams, 31, is to receive 18 to 21 years when sentence is pronounced in November.

The torching of the three synagogues in the pre-dawn hours of June 18 marked the opening of the 1999 “summer of hate,” which included an arson attack on a Sacramento abortion clinic, also admitted by the Williams brothers. Subsequent months saw a shooting spree that wounded five at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, and a white supremacist’s killing rampage in the Midwest.

Following their conviction in federal court on the firebombings, the Williams brothers will be tried in state court for the killing of a gay couple, two weeks after the Sacramento arsons. Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty.

Hardest hit by the synagogue attacks was Congregation B’nai Israel, a Reform temple, which last year celebrated its 150th anniversary, and which sustained more than $1 million in damages.

Substantial damage was also suffered by Congregation Beth Shalom, also Reform, in suburban Carmichael, and Kenesset Israel Torah Center, an Orthodox synagogue.

In a news conference following the guilty pleas, Louis Anapolsky, president of B’nai Israel at the time of the arson, said, “The wounds that were inflicted, which ran so deep, today are beginning to heal.”

At two of the synagogues, the perpetrators left leaflets proclaiming that the “International Jew World Order” and the “International Jewsmedia” started the war in Kosovo.

While he was held in prison, the voluble elder Williams initiated a series of press interviews in which he declared his readiness to be executed as a “Christian martyr,” whose death would spur increased attacks on Jews, homosexuals and various minority groups.

Following the synagogue attacks, a unity rally of all faiths and races in Sacramento drew 5,000 people and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the shuls repair their buildings.

By a coincidence in timing, Gov. Gray Davis appeared two days before the guilty pleas at Congregation B’nai Israel. He chose the venue to sign into law a bill prohibiting insurance companies from canceling, fail to renew, or raise premiums on policies of organizations filing claims based on hate crimes.

The bill was introduced after Congregation B’nai Israel was denied renewal of its property insurance after filing a claim for $1 million in damages sustained during the firebombing.

The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2002, and protects religious, educational and nonprofit institutions and organizations that have suffered losses due to hate crimes.

“The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents,” Tamar Galatzan, Western States associate counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, said. “When an insurance company blames the victim for being targeted — by cancelling or not renewing a policy — the perpetrator’s message of hate and exclusion is reinforced.”

‘Believer’ Is a Winner

In our Jan. 26 issue, veteran screenwriter Henry Bean told The Journal he wasn’t sure his provocative directorial debut, “The Believer,” inspired by the true story of a Jewish Nazi, would be well-received at Sundance. He’d heard that distributors were wary of the controversial subject matter. So he was shocked last week when his film won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize, the top award in the dramatic competition — prompting serious discussions with potential distributors. Now that “The Believer” seems poised to have an audience, at least with the art-house crowd, Bean has a particular group of viewers in mind. “There is no audience I’d rather show this to than one of anti-Semites and neo-Nazis,” he told The Journal. “I’d love to know what they think.”