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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.)
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