Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Swiss shame  

Prior to and during the Second World War, Switzerland gave refuge to about 23,000 Jewish refugees although the government decided that Switzerland would serve only as a country of transit. These Jews were protected during the Holocaust due to Swiss neutrality. The Jewish refugees, however, did not receive the financial support from the government that non-Jewish refugees received. Many more Jews were prevented from entering, effectively shutting the border. 

 The Swiss government persuaded Germany to stamp "J" on the passport of Jews, making it easier to refuse Jewish refugees. 

 The end of the war had delivered many thousands of Jews into the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. In 1942, the Swiss police issued a regulation that denied refugee status to "refugees only on racial grounds, e.g., Jews." By the end of the war, less then 25,000 Jews were permitted to take refuge. Most of the refugees left Switzerland at the end of the war. More then 30,000 Jews were turned away according to a 25-volume study on Switzerland's role during World War II completed in 2002.

In the past few years, Switzerland has had to owe up to its behavior during the
Holocaust. In 1996, Swiss President Kastar Villiger formally apologized to world Jewry for their 1938 accord with the Nazis and its wartime actions against the Jews. At the same time, however, he downplayed economic cooperation between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. It transpired that numerous documents relating to Jewish property in Swiss banks disappeared during the 1940s and 1950s and there was significant pressure in the 1990s and early-21st century to rectify and compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs who were denied their assets in Swiss banks.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Universal Humanist

Edward Said in an interview with Ari Shavit:

“[Q] In a binational state, the Jews will quickly become a minority, like the
Lebanese Christians.

“[A] … the Jews are a minority everywhere. They are a minority in America. They can
certainly be a minority in Israel.”

[Q] Knowing the region and given the history of the conflict, do you think such a
Jewish minority would be treated fairly?

[A] “I worry about that. The history of minorities in the Middle East has not been
as bad as in Europe, but I wonder what would happen. It worries me a great deal.
The question of what is going to be the fate of the Jews is very difficult for
me. I really don’t know. It worries me.” [-]

“[Q]So what you envision is a totally new situation in which a Jewish minority would
live peacefully within an Arab context?

“[A] Yes. I believe it is viable. A Jewish minority can survive the way other
minorities in the Arab world survived. I hate to say it, but in a funny sort of
way, it worked rather well under the Ottoman Empire, with its millet system.
What they had then seems a lot more humane than what we have now.
So as you see it, the Jews would eventually have a cultural autonomy within a
pan-Arab structure? “[-]

“[Q] So in a generation or two, what we will have is an Arab-Jewish minority
community in an Arab world?

“[A]Yes. Yes. I would have thought.”

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Kirchner's Shakespearean failure 

 This story about Kirchner's antisemitic fulminations:

 Argentine President Cristina Kirchner made an anti-Semitic remark during a visit to a high school that has infuriated the Jewish community in Argentina.
Last week, Kirchner said that in order to understand the economic situation in the country, pupils should read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a play by the Bard where Jews are described as scheming, vindictive, greedy money-lenders. [-]
In one of her tweets, she recounted how she asked children she met which Shakespeare play they were reading. The answer: Romeo and Juliet. “I said, have you read The Merchant of Venice to understand the vulture funds.
They all laughed,” she tweeted.“No, don’t laugh. Usury and the bloodsuckers were immortalized by the best literature for centuries,” she wrote in another tweet.

I never understand how both Anti-semites and Jews fail to read what the play actually says and shows, to realize that it does not immortalize the Jew as usurer bloodsucker. It actually works AGAINST this stereotype. Shylock is interesting precisely because he does not fit the stereotype Jewish moneylender. Had he been true to the stereotype, he would have accepted, happily, the offer of 3X the loan of 3,000 ducats he had given to Bassanio in return for his bond. Think about it: the moneylender Jew refused 12,000 ducats, a fortune and a windfall in those times. Let's not forget that at the time of the offer, he was totally destitute. Remember his daughter Jessica, who had run away with a Christian lover, robbed her father of all the money she could find in his safe, as well as jewelry he had kept from her mother. Remember, he also owed 3,000 ducats to his friend Tubal from whom he had to borrow the money to give to Bassanio. So what does a calculating, shrewd, money-grabbing Jew do but reject 12,000 ducats in return for tearing up a bond that would give him nothing but a pound of Antonio's carrion flesh? How is the portrait of such a Jew useful for Kirchner's message of Jews as controlling the banks and responsible for banking corruption?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The new antisemite