Sunday, October 11, 2009

PA Arts Sunday - Some Thoughts on Alison Weir - Part Two

I. I'm writing this while listening to one of the most important documents of the last century. It is the recording, made in Vienna on January 16th, 1938, of Gustav Mahler's 9th Symphony. The conductor, Bruno Walter, had given the work's premiere in that city 25 years earlier, shortly after the great symphonist's death.

Less than two months after Walter's performance of Mahler's 9th in Vienna, the Nazis occupied Austria, and no more Mahler was played in the German-speaking world until after the horrors of the 3rd Reich ended.

When the Anchluss occurred, Walter was working in Paris. He immediately began toiling to save his family from what he knew would be hell for them, should they have to stay in Austria. He managed to save them.

The March 12, 1938 Anchluss aroused Jews in central Europe who could escape. Artists, journalists, scientists and academicians who could get into other, safer countries, did so whenever they could.

Bruno Walter eventually found his way to the United States. Other brilliant Jews had already made their way here. Arnold Schoenberg, the most important musical theoretician of the 20th century had come here in the mid-30s. Albert Einstein, the most important scientist of the 20th century, came to the USA in 1935.

On April 17th, 1938, five weeks after the Nazi occupation of Austria, Albert Einstein wrote the following to a close friend:

I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State, with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish State. We are no longer the Jews of the Maccabee period. A return to a nation in the political sense of the word, would be equivalent to turning away from the spiritualization of our community which we owe to the genius of our prophets.

During the period between the end of World War II and the death of Josef Stalin, Soviet thought police used the term "cosmopolitan" to identify a certain kind of enemy of the state. The term was often used to characterize Soviet Jews whose socialist intellectualism drifted outside of acceptable communist bounds. After the formation of the state of Israel, it was more often directed toward Jews in the USSR who supported the idea of Zionism, or who had expressed interest in possible emigration to the new country. Even after Stalin's death, once the USSR began to align itself with Arab socialist nationalism in the United Arab Republic and elsewhere, the term "cosmopolitan" would crop up when denigrating Soviet Jews such as Nathan Sharansky.

What does any of this have to do with Alison Weir? A lot.

As much as it appears to me that Weir does know about the history of Jews in Palestine/Israel, reading through a lot of her material this past five weeks has led me to conclude she knows less about the depth of concern among American and European Jews about the worsening situation in Palestine than she should. Nor does her context adequately describe the long-term viability of Jewish concerns about Zionism's durability.

Her recent Counterpunch article, Israeli Organ Harvesting, was ill-considered at best. Although her lecture I listened to yesterday was very straightforward and honest, her overall focus seems shallow.

Unless her promised followup to the Counterpunch piece shows more depth than what she has recently come up with, I see an eclipse in her importance as a voice for reform in the Israel/Palestine debate.

Progressive Alaska attempted to cover Weir's Anchorage appearances comprehensively. I didn't.

Part of the reason was that good friends - Patti Higgins, Ethan Berkowitz and Max Blumenthal, for instance - had serious reservations about her message. Of the three, Blumenthal is the one I have to respect the most on this issue, because, unlike Higgins and Berkowitz, he seriously questions the wisdom of the current paradigm of blind support for Israeli governmental policies regarding the Palestinians.

When I asked my question to Weir after her talk Friday night, she seemed at a loss. I asked if she had noticed a shift in opinion among Jews in the USA toward Israeli policies regarding Palestinians since the Gaza blockade, bombardment and invasion, in December 2008-January 2009. She disambiguated, and I didn't feel she answered my question at all. I felt that she prioritizes contact with American Jews who are fighting against Israeli expansionism rather low.

I'll continue to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people. But I refuse to discount the ability of Jews worldwide to end up being a very important part of the solution to the Israel/Palestine dilemma. In a positive, now unforeseen way.

II. One of the saddest aspects of the fallout of having been labelled an anti-Semite for writing The Skies Are Weeping, was that some people who I had long known up in the Mat-Su Valley believed it. So they felt they could tell me Jew jokes. The Jew jokes they told me weren't like Irish jokes or Polish jokes. They were pretty sick. One man, with whom I had worked a lot, had to see me start crying right in front of him. He gave me a WTF look. I told him that we would no longer be friends.

These past two weeks have brought me the closest to that period of any time since 2004. I'm not quite sure what it is about Alison's stuff that brings this forth, but it is there - anti-Semitism. I don't think she brings it out on purpose.

And the other side of the coin comes out, too. Here's a comment from my post about Alison's Bartlett Lunch talk:

It was interesting to see evil up close and personal today.

I don't believe she liked it when I patted her on the shoulder and told her it was truly amazing how she and David Duke shared the exact same ideas.

If looks could kill...but I personally got the feeling she'd of like to of done more than just glare at me.

It was so much fun invading the liars space! I didn't see your ass there though, Phil. Joints acting up today? LOLOL

There was a serious behind-the-scenes effort to keep Weir from being able to speak at any of her Anchorage venues. Some people I respect highly participated in it. I find that disturbing. One person, Alaska Pacific University's president, succeeded. Good job, Mr. North!

No doubt I've alienated a few friends for being so critical of Weir, and others for giving her "the time of day." Alaska is a long way from Palestine. But American policy that blindly favors Israeli expansion time and time again is not in our national interest.

Or the world's.

image - Einstein and Tagore


Susie said...

Most everyone knows that nothing seems simple or straight-forward when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations. There are groups and camps that support one side or the other, and can't see any of it with any objectivity at all. I don't have any agenda regarding this, only a desire to see them all respect each other and really work together to make a safe and healthy place for all of them in their shared lands.
I haven't figured out Alison's angle in all of this, but I hope that she is persuing the truth so that she can help find some kind of just living arrangement for the Palestinian people.

Things Come Undone said...

Whats your take on the organ harvesting story if this is true its horrible. I won't be commenting on this myself without more proof.

Philip Munger said...


The best article that questions Weir's take on this is by Israeli blogger Dimi Reider, written for the FreeSpeech Blog:

JeanK said...

Here's the link to the most current version of Alison Weir's article about organ harvesting, on the website of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:

A shorter version is in the new issue of the print magazine that is just out (November 2009). People who are concerned should read it.

Makabit Bat Guriel said...

She is evil Phil. Plain and simple. A person that doesn't hate Jews wouldn't write, say or peddle what she does. Sitting there watching the group at Dennys I saw people who probably had no idea of the other side of the argument.
As for people in Anchorage trying to stop her from speaking, there needs to be more proof of that. One gentleman called them on it at the Dennys and they all looked like fools.
She pushes the same hate that was and still is being passed around with the so called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and those that buy into her hate are probably as evil as she or just plain ignorant.
Organ harvesting? OK, so why isn't she screaming about it when it comes to other countries? Because the hag hates Jews...damn!
So quote me all you want Phil because it's true!