Douglas Carpenter, a forum member at Democratic Underground, yesterday pointed me to one of the most odious, scurrilous pieces of garbage I’ve read on the web since…well, since a Jewish Task Force poster wished cancer of the rectum on me. And who do you think we have to thank for this swinish filth? Why, none other than that very model of rectitude, Alan Dershowitz.
A little background. Norman Finkelstein’s parents both were survivors: his father of Auschwitz and his mother of Maidanek. After the war, she testified in war crimes trials against the officers of her camp.
Naturally, Finkelstein wanted to ask his mother a thousand questions about her experience. But he felt he couldn’t. When you feel you can’t discuss a subject with someone you love and respect, it allows your mind to fester obssessively on matters you simply can’t know. As a child deeply sensitive to injustice and moral issues, Finkelstein wondered about why the good died and why those who lived, survived. Were the good saintly and the survivors less so? Did one have to betray one’s moral code in order to survive? Did his mother do so?
This is how Finkelstein movingly portrays the issue:
Except for allusions to relentless pangs of hunger, my mother never spoke about her personal torments during the war, which was just as well, since I couldn’t have borne them. Like Primo Levi, she often said that, being “too delicate and refined, the best didn’t survive.” Was this an indirect admission of guilt? Much later in life I finally summoned the nerve to ask whether she had done anything of which she was ashamed. Calmly replying no, she recalled having refused the privileged position of “block head” in the camp. She especially resented the “dirty” question “How did you survive?” with the insinuation that, to emerge alive from the camps, survivors must have morally compromised themselves. Given how ferociously she cursed the Jewish councils, ghetto police and kapos, I assume my mother answered me truthfully. Although acknowledging that Jews initially joined the councils from mixed motives, she said that “only scum,” reaping the rewards of doing the devil’s work, still cooperated after it became clear that they were merely cogs in the Nazi killing machine. When queried why she hadn’t settled in Israel after the war, my mother used to reply, only half in jest, that “I had enough of Jewish leaders!” The Jewish ghetto police always had the option, she said, of “throwing off their uniforms and joining the rest of us” — a point that Yitzak Zuckerman, a leader of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, made in his memoir. (It was always gratifying to find my mother’s seemingly erratic or harsh judgments seconded in the reliable testimonial literature.) Still shaking her head in disbelief, she would often recall how, after Jews in the ghetto used the most primitive implements or even bare hands to dig bunkers deep in the earth and conceal themselves, the Jewish police would reveal these hideouts to the Germans, sending their flesh-and-blood to the crematoria in order to save their own skins. One of the first acts of the ghetto resistance was to kill an officer in the Jewish police. On a sign posted next to his corpse — my mother would recall with vengeful glee — read the epitaph: “Those who live like a dog die like a dog.” Still, if she didn’t cross fundamental moral boundaries, I glimpsed from her manner of pushing and shoving in order to get to the head of a queue, which mortified me, how my mother must have fought Hobbes’s war of all against all many a time in the camps. Really, how else would she have survived?
Here we have a morally nuanced discussion of a very complex issue. But Dershowitz blows nuance and truth to smithereens in his twisted recapitulations:
“[Finkelstein] suspects his mother of having been a kapo (‘really, how else would she have survived?’ he asks rhetorically)…”
He suspects his own mother of being a kapo and cooperating with the Nazis during the Holocaust”
–Dershowitz’s official Harvard University Law School website profile
Finkelstein even doubted his own mother’s denial that she was a kapo, asking whether her frequent statements that “the best didn’t survive” constituted “an indirect admission of guilt?” The most he was willing to do was “assume” that his mother answered him “truthfully.” But he questioned even that assumption: “Still, if she didn’t cross fundamental moral boundaries, I glimpsed from her manner of pushing and shoving in order to get to the head of a queue, which mortified me. . . . Really, how else would she have survived?” (p. 174)
—The Case for Peace
And of course, wherever Dershowitz has taken a dump, his litter mate, Steven Plaut, isn’t far behind to add to the stench:
…Apparently relying on information supplied to him by Dershowitz, Professor Steven Plaut of Haifa University has recently stated:
While Finkelstein likes to defend his own anti-Semitic ravings by claiming his parents are themselves Holocaust survivors, Dershowitz recently revealed that Finkelstein’s mother was in fact a collaborator with German Nazis during the war. (“DePaul U Confronts Amerikan ‘Empire,'” FrontPageMag.com (3 January 2006); posted on this web site under “The New Year Begins”)
So let’s sketch out the rhetorical argument here. Dershowitz lies his way into a claim that Finkelstein believes his mother was a kapo. Then, for the coup de grace, Plaut multiplies the offense by claiming that Finkelstein himself claims that Finkelstein’s mother was a kapo.
My right-wing friends here don’t like my calling Dershowitz an “academic brownshirt.” Well, give me a better phrase to describe this evil human being. In Jewish tradition, we believe that words not only hurt, they can figuratively kill. That is why, I believe, so many Jews have been great writers. We are sensitive to the power of words. If we are a people of words, a people of the Book, how can we not be deeply wounded as a people by odious Jews such as Dershowitz?
This guy is a Jewish Matt Drudge (Drudge may be Jewish for all I know but you get my point). In fact, he seems worse than Drudge since unlike Drudge he can get on CNN, Huffington Post and other media outlets seemingly at will. What will it take before the MSM acknowledges that Dershowitz has long ago crossed a moral red line and doesn’t deserve to be given a public forum for his odiousness?
Dershowitz’s ally, Plaut, as well as other far-rightist wingnuts accuse me regularly of being a ‘kapo.’ But of course it is much more heinous to accuse Mrs. Finkelstein of this since she actually was a survivor. No one in their right mind credits anything Plaut and the other nutjobs would say about me and so I don’t worry that anyone could mistake their lies for truth. But still the battle against these odious lunatics must be fought.