Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Soccer!

From Facebook
Facebook friend Tobi Ogir writes:

"To help you to understand the cynically German "soccer soul", with an example related to your Polish roots: in the German team there is a player called Miroslav Klose, born in Opole, near Wroclaw. If he goals, than he is "Our Upper Silesian boy" – but if he plays badly, the crowd bawls "Coach, take the f*ckin' Polack out of the game!"

Disgusting, absolutely disgusting!"

Tobi sent this, as well:

He offers this comment:

"What would our team be, without our upper Silesian Klose!!!"
Erika Steinbach is a right wing politician, which wants all the territories back, which the allies gave Poland! A reactionary, constant complainer!
The archenemy of Bartoszewski over decades

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Yes I Support Israel or Why I Buy Israeli Carrots

Laurel Dunay Israeli Flag at Masada Source
I've very consciously never posted a lengthy blog saying that I support Israel. There are several reasons.

1.) I like to say things that might get heard, and I don't think saying "I support Israel" would be heard.

Some would say, "You are saying this only to deflect condemnation for your inborn Polish, Catholic anti-Semitism."

Some would say "If a Polish Catholic like you is saying something positive about Israel, it's because you have been sold out to the all-powerful Jews."

Some would say, "We always knew you were secretly Jewish."

I have received email saying some variation of all of these criticisms.

2.) I don't really feel like it's my job to say "I support Israel." Israel does have a powerful lobby, and nothing I do or say is going to contribute in any significant way.

3.) Support for Israel strikes me as such an overtly obvious position, stating it publicly feels, to me, like saying "Yes I believe that there is such a thing as gravity."

Yesterday I went shopping at my local grocery store. I had a choice between five pounds of carrots from California or five pounds of carrots from Israel. Both were offered at the same price. Though I usually strive to buy produce locally, and to buy American, I chose the Israeli carrots, as I have been doing since I first noticed them in the market.

I mentioned this on Facebook. A Facebook friend responded, "How utterly obnoxious." Her words shocked and hurt me, and made me realize that in spite of all my reservations, I would blog my support for Israel, as anonymous, ineffectual, and insignificant as it is.

Below will be my random, idiosyncratic, and incomplete thoughts about why I support Israel, and why I assess boycotts of Israel as anti-Semitic.

The selective outrage exhibited by those who target Israel for condemnation strikes me as so outrageous that it is utterly unworthy of anything but intellectual and ethical contempt.

North Korea, a nation that is one big concentration camp. The nightmare fate of 170,000 Untouchables in India. The treatment of Native people in Latin America. Gender apartheid throughout the Muslim world. The selective destruction of female fetuses in Hindu, Muslim and Confucian Asian, and among their populations abroad, creating what Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen called a hundred million missing women and girls. The government of Burma, that allowed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to die in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, and refused to allow aid to enter the country. The open market in little girls in Cambodia. Darfur. Boko Haram. I could go on.

In the face of all that human misery, anti-Israel activists focus on a country slightly larger than New Jersey, my own state, a country you can drive across in the daylight hours of one day, leaving generous time for three meals and bathroom breaks.

The obvious ethical and intellectual question here is, "Huh?"

The obvious response is "Give me a break."

The obvious suggestion is "What are you on?"

My second idiosyncratic and undisciplined response to criticism of Israel. I've actually been to Israel, and I have lived among Muslim Arabs from the Middle East – aka "Palestinians" – my entire life.

If Israel really were the simulacrum of Auschwitz that its critics insist it is, yes, it would be appropriate to focus outrage on Israel.

Here's the thing. I've been to Auschwitz. I've studied Auschwitz. I've published a prize winning scholarly book that cites Auschwitz. Israel is no Auschwitz.

I know Muslim Arabs from Israel, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. I've spent time with them in New Jersey, California, and in Israel. I've been in their homes. I've shared their secrets. I've gone over their photograph albums. I've met grandmothers and new born babes. I've met pillars of the community with white collar jobs and young men who say that they were imprisoned in Israel for terrorist activities. I've spent time with members of the same family over the course of generations.

Muslim Arabs are not Auschwitz inmates. Auschwitz is not part of their life experience. They are, for the most part, healthy, well-fed, well-adjusted college students, college professors, pharmacists, jewelers, furniture salesmen, dentists, and slackers.

I've been to Israel. I've spent time in Jewish areas, Arab Muslim areas, and mixed areas. It's not Nazi Germany. Again, stating this I feel like I'm saying "Yes, gravity is real."

Next time someone tells you that Israel is just like Nazi Germany and Arabs live under conditions comparable to Auschwitz in Israel, please ask for evidence. And show it to the whole world.

There is no evidence because this claim is just not true.

Some say that terrorism is proof that Israel is comparable to Nazi Germany. Conditions for Arab Muslims are so bad, these folks insist, that Arabs were forced, forced, forced I tell you, to become terrorists.

To blow up school buses full of children, as happened near Be'er Ora. To throw a crippled man in a wheelchair into the Mediterranean Sea, has happened to Leon Klinghoffer. To murder Olympic athletes, as happened in Munich. To stab to death a three month old baby girl, Hadas Fogel. To train their children to become suicide bombers. To indoctrinate their children, using official school curricula, into hating Jews as subhuman apes and pigs.

Yes. All of these atrocities, committed by Muslim Arabs, with the financial support and religious blessing of the Muslim world, are proof … that Jews are horrible people. Because Jews are responsible. Jews forced Muslim Arabs to do these bad things.

How did Jews force Muslim Arabs to do these bad things?

Jews "stole" "Arab land."

Okay, two things here.

One. I'm Polish. Just about every single Polish person I know is the period at the end of a sentence that includes the words "dispossession," "concentration camp," "slave labor," "exile," "displaced persons camp," "redrawn map," and "genocide."

Talk to any Polish person with any consciousness of his or her history and you will discover that that person standing in front of you who seems so American was born in a displaced persons camp, or had parents who were inmates in a concentration camp, or had grandparents who were sent to Siberia, or was the product of a vast immigration driven by starvation and injustice, an immigration that included labor under conditions that compare unfavorably to the conditions antebellum slaves endured.

If they are just a tad more conscious they will be able to tell you about great grandparents who fought the Russians in 1863 or the Russians in 1920 or the Ukrainians and the Germans in the interwar period.

We had a country, and it was stolen from us, countless times. Our border was redrawn. Areas that had been Polish for hundreds of years are now Ukrainian or Lithuanian.

Germans were similarly dispossessed after WW II. There were mass movements of impoverished, war-battered people who lost everything they owned and faced rape and starvation, barbed wire and homelessness. That's *normal* for us. It has been for hundreds of years.

My fellow Polish American writer John Guzlowski was born in a DP camp. His father was in Buchenwald. His mother was a slave laborer. Germans, Ukrainians and Russians tore his family's worlds apart. My fellow blogger Otto Gross's German grandparents were exiled to Siberia. Lithuanian American writer Daiva Markelis' family members were also in Siberia.

I could go on and on and on and on.

None of us use our family's nightmares as an excuse to become terrorists.

Rather, terrorism has been an approved method of Jihad for 1400 years. It didn't start with the recognition of the state of Israel. Mohammed himself declared, "I have been made victorious through terror."

And … about that insistence that Israel is a modern invention of European Jews colonizing the Middle East. Jews have lived in the land of Israel continuously for four thousand years. Yes, the political entity Israel has come and gone and come and gone again. But the people have been there. Genetic research has shown this multiple times – check out Y chromosomal Aaron.

Yes, many Israelis descend from European Jews, but many Israelis descend from Middle Eastern Jews who were kicked out of countries like Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, etc. My student Gidon was born in Iraq and spoke Arabic as a first language. Iraq was an inhospitable place for Jews and he and his family moved to Israel.

Anti-Israel activists focus on the creation of Israel while ignoring the creation of Pakistan. Why?

Pakistan is a completely artificial creation. There was nothing comparable to Pakistan before it was invented in the 1940s. The Pakistan that was invented then no longer exists; "East Pakistan," after suffering from atrocities so massive they are sometimes assessed as a genocide, atrocities inflicted by their Muslim brothers in "West Pakistan," is now Bangladesh.

Pakistan was invented so that sub-continental Muslims could have their own country. The invention of Pakistan resulted in the displacement of 14.5 million people. Fourteen point five million people. Fourteen point five million people! Hundreds of thousands, or perhaps a million – no one knows for sure – died.

Why do the anti-Israel critics not SEE their own hypocrisy on this? If you want to protest a completely artificial nation whose creation displaced millions of impoverished peasants, and resulted in the deaths of uncounted multitudes, why do you give Pakistan a free pass? Why? This is not a rhetorical question.

Further, Pakistan is widely cited as one of the worst countries on earth to live in. It is a source of terrorism. It is cited as the most likely cause of the next world war. It has no concept of human rights.

Tell me again why Pakistan gets a free pass?

I'm veering off into a rant, which I knew I would if I tried to insist that gravity exists, and that criticism of Israel defies intellectual and ethical standards.

Some say that anti-Semitism in the Muslim world is all because of Israel. Facts are not on their side. Anti-Semitism has existed in Islam from the first. In the Koran, Allah turns Jews into apes and pigs. The Koran tells Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews. Jews are among the "worst enemies" of the Muslims, the Koran says. Muslims must pray five times a day not to become like Jews "who have incurred your wrath." A hadith, or saying of Mohammed, says that the end of the world will not arrive until stones say to Muslims, "There is a Jew hiding behind me; kill him." "Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam," wrote Sufi jurist Sirhindi (d. 1621)

Yes, Christianity has a long history of anti-Semitism. Yes, Christian texts have been used as supports for anti-Semitism. The most notorious example is Matthew 27:25. There has also been a healthy resistance to anti-Semitism in Christianity, a resistance that goes back centuries and was led by the Vatican. One such example can be found here; there are many more.

The point is that Christianity offers a serious resistance to religiously-inspired anti-Semitism and such resistance would benefit Islam and Muslims. The destruction of the state of Israel would benefit neither Islam nor Muslims.

Israel is not responsible for either terrorism or anti-Semitism, and terrorism and anti-Semitism are neither natural nor inevitable. Terrorism and anti-Semitism are worldwide problems for Islam, they always have been, and categorical rejection of both should and must come from Muslims themselves and the world will be a better place for Muslims and non-Muslims when that happens.

There's more to be said, much more. As I promised, this post is random, incomplete, and idiosyncratic. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"A Nation Is Built By Its Saints, Not By Its Monsters;" Should Poland Be Grateful to the Red Army? A Russian Responds

Raising a Flag over the Reichstag by Yevgeny Khaldei
Source: Wikipedia 
Should Poles and Poland be grateful to the Red Army for its actions during World War II?

June 6, 2014 was the seventieth anniversary of D-Day. I celebrated on Facebook and on this blog. I expressed gratitude to the young American men, average age 22, who charged into Nazi machine gun fire on Omaha Beach and other landing sites.

My friend Natasha Vaubel wrote to remind me to be grateful to the Red Army.

On Facebook, I acknowledged that the Red Army caused the greatest number of casualties to the Nazis. I said, though, that I am not grateful to the Red Army. I gave my reasons for this lack of gratitude. Just one such reason. The Red Army invaded Poland in 1939, along with Nazi Germany. After the war, I see the Red Army's advance into Eastern Europe as an invasion and an occupation.

Facebook friend Magdalena Paśnikowska advanced her reasons for gratitude to the Red Army. The Red Army made a huge contribution to defeating the Nazis. The average soldier should not be conflated with Stalin or other evil Soviet leaders, who did very bad things to Russians, as well as to Poles.

A Russian woman, Anna Domasheva, responded to the thread. Ms. Domasheva's response was so powerful and eloquent I asked for, and received, permission to post her response. Please read it below, in full, with very few, minor proofreading changes by me.

Ms. Domasheva referred to another blog post by me entitled "What the Heck is Wrong with the Irish?" Recently news has come out about an alleged mass grave of infants in Tuam, Ireland. People have been eager to attribute evil to the nuns who ran the orphanage associated with the alleged mass grave. I wanted to say that we don't yet know the full story of the alleged mass grave and we shouldn't rush to associate cruelty to children with one ethnicity – Irish people – one religion – Catholicism – or one order – the Bon Secours nuns.

***

Anna Domasheva writes:

First of all, if ever one person can stand for a nation – and I believe we all can – then I beg you for forgiveness, for the pardon of the unpardonable: for what your families, friends, and fellow countrymen had to endure.

I read this thread from the beginning and I noticed how closely the debate came at the end to Danusha's previous post ("What the heck is wrong with the Irish?"). Basically, it was becoming the same question, but with "Russians" instead of the Irish.

I thought about other historical comparisons, and a few names came to mind.


Feliks Dzierżyński: the founder and first head of the all-powerful Cheka-NKVD police, the foremost organizer of the Red Terror, having introduced torture and mass summary executions in Russia on an unprecedented scale, unimaginable in czarist times. [Dzierzynkski was Polish. The Cheka, his brainchild, went on to become the KGB.]

Wiaczesław Mężyński: successor of Dzierżyński as the head of Cheka-NKVD, idem for the professional activities.

Stanisław Kosior: head of the Communist Party of Ukraine in the 30s – and a major architect of the Holodomor.

Andrzej Wyszyński: a state prosecutor of Joseph Stalin's Moscow trials (his favorite sentence: "Kill them all as the mad dogs they are!!!")

These people are personally responsible for millions of deaths.

No, they did not personally rape and kill hundreds of thousands of women.

But do you believe that what the horde of dirty "Ivans" did in 1945 was more evil than what did these refined gentlemen – three of them belonging to ancient Polish nobility – did to Russia during the years 1918 – 1953?

I do not think so.

They gang-raped my country, murdering not only its body, but its soul.

They made – amongst other diligent servants of the regime – the crime of Katyn possible.

One could be tempted to ask: how is it possible that in an enormous country – run first by a bloodthirsty Russian lunatic and then by a bloodthirsty Georgian thug – the bloodthirsty himmlers-goebbels-görings of both the lunatic and the thug were Poles?

So – what the heck is wrong with the Poles?

Nothing.

Because a nation is built by its saints, not by its monsters.

Because "my" Poles are not Dzierżyński, Mężyński, Kosior and Wyszyński.

My Poles are: Witold Pilecki, Jan Karski, the heroes of Armia Krajowa, Warsaw Uprising and Solidarność.

And I thank them. I thank you. Thank you for the freedom. Spasibo. Za naszą i waszą wolność.

Can it be then that the army of thugs terrorizing the women of Eastern Europe/Germany in the spring 1945 – had also its true heroes?… albeit dead by the time Soviets entered Prussia?

The 22-year-old boys at Omaha beach could land in Normandy and land heroically and the majority would survive (sad majority though – 70 %) amongst other reasons thanks to their Russian counterparts: to the 18-years-old boys – every bit as bright-eyed and bright-minded as the American soldiers in D-Day photos – who were taken from their first university years to the front in the 1941 – and were all dead by the time the thugs came to Germany as winners.

No. No – happily enough, not of all them dead … A young artillery officer, appalled with the atrocities of Soviet troops, was arrested by NKVD in February 1945 in Eastern Prussia. He was destined to spend many years of his life in the Gulag, nearly die of cancer at the end of his term, overcome the illness and finally write a book that would contribute to changing the world to a freer place. The officer's name was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose poem "Prussian Nights" Danusha cites in the very beginning of the thread.

-- Anna Domasheva

Ms. Domasheva sent the following photos; please scroll down to read her reasons for choosing these photos. 





Of the photographs, above, Anna Domasheva wrote: 

Here are several high school graduation shots of 1941 – and these are actually the last civilian photos for the majority of the boys and the male teachers (and in the photo from the Leningrad school – also for the girls, who would very probably die of starvation during next winter). The graduation balls in the Soviet Union were held Saturday evening June 21, and the war began at dawn on Sunday June 22.

The last two photos are by great Robert Capa. His famous "Magnificent Eleven" at Omaha beach needs no introduction. The second one is less known, though for me it's as emblematic of the World War II as the first. The shot was captured during Capa's voyage to USSR together with John Steinbeck in 1947-1948 (Steinbeck wrote "A Russian Journal").

The photo has no specific name, but I call it "Women or Victory Day".

These women could as well be Polish, Slovak, British or American – though of course it's above all women of Eastern Europe.

This is about the loss that no victory can restore to you. About the solitude of Victory Day.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Should Poles and Poland be Grateful to the Red Army?

English and French volunteers created art commemorating fallen D-Day soldiers. Source below.
Komm Frau by Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk Source: Der Spiegel
Whenever the anniversary of D-Day rolls around, the French and the Belgians put on touching displays of their gratitude to America and Americans for liberating them from Nazi occupation.

I am always touched by these displays, especially since otherwise the French appear so sophisticated as to be above such old-fashioned sentiment. French and Belgian gratitude is unalloyed. They never say, "We are grateful but…" or "Those soldiers sacrificed their lives for us but…" No. It's always "We are grateful to the American soldiers who sacrificed to liberate us from Nazi occupation." Period. Full stop.

A remarkable expression of this gratitude is the sand images created by hundreds of British and French volunteers to honor nine thousand soldiers who died on D-Day. You can read more about this poignant project here.

I expressed my own appreciation for American D-Day soldiers on Facebook.

Two Facebook friends, one American, the other Polish, objected.

"You should be grateful to the Red Army," they said.

When I was a child, I met a loved one in Slovakia who had been, when she was a child, gang raped by Red Army soldiers. She was traumatized for life by this, and was never able to have children.  

Historian Antony Beevor documented the pervasiveness and brutality of Red Army rapes. See here.

I see the Red Army as invading and occupying Poland, not as liberating Poland. Killing didn't stop in Poland in 1945. Russia had been an ally of Nazi Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939, shortly after the Nazis invaded Poland.

I see the Red Army as the foot soldiers for the regime that demonized, incarcerated, tortured, murdered, buried in unmarked graves and erased the memory of heroes like Witold Pilecki who fought the Nazis.

I see the Red Army as the spear for propagandist who would utterly distort the history of Auschwitz and murder Raoul Wallenberg.

Oh, but you must remember that the average Ivans in the Red Army were nice guys; only Stalin was a bad guy.

I have read many memoirs of Poland during WW II, and average Ivans were perfectly happy to engage in petty and unnecessary cruelty while carrying out the orders of their higher ups. Anti-Polish feeling was certainly a live force in Russian culture and it certainly motivated some in the Red Army.

Should Poles and Poland be grateful to the Red Army? Most Poles, when surveyed, report that they would like to see monuments of gratitude to the Red Army removed.

In one case, artist Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk, student at the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts, erected a statue, Komm Frau, next to a monument to the Red Army in Gdansk, Poland. Szumczyk's statue shows a Red Army soldier raping a pregnant woman at gun point. Szumczyk was arrested for telling this historical truth.

You can read English language coverage of Szumczyk's statue here, here, and here. You can read Polish language coverage here.

This question began a furious debate on Facebook, which I think you should be able to see here