Monday, February 01, 2010

Why shouldn't Jews hate Germans?

Anthony Julius's new book on antisemitism contains a couple of paragraphs about his most famous client, Princess Diana:

"She was under-educated in the approved style of her class and gender… she had a strong desire to please, to leave her interlocutor happy, but often without understanding what that person was about.

"She was interested in Jews, but had no idea about them – she was happy to take Jews to be hostile to everything to which she herself was hostile. She once said to me that she should never have married into a German family."

Melanie McDonagh comments in the Telegraph:

He's right about the Princess being poorly educated – she didn't get a single O-level at her expensive school; her brother Charles got to Oxford from his (Eton).

But that remark about her wanting to say what her interlocutor wanted to hear, followed by the bombshell that she should never have married into a German family – what does that tell us? That she felt that Mr Julius, being Jewish, was anti-German, even if the Teutonic taint was, by the Prince of Wales's time, a few generations removed?

It doesn't seem to cross Mr Julius's mind that this remark was unworthy of either of them. He might have mildly pointed out that, although Jewish, he was not prejudiced against the German nation. He might have said that the Windsors were hardly German now, or even that it is unreasonable to equate being German with being Nazi, for that was the implication.

Of course, he might have felt it wasn't his job to do so, but one of the points of his book is that anti-Semitism – that is, racism – should be challenged, whether discreet or explicit.

First of all, Julius's text makes it quite clear that he does, in fact, dissociate himself from Diana's remark - he says Diana had "no idea" about Jews and that she just assumed Jews were hostile to the things to which she was hostile - ie, her assumption was wrong.

But what I really find silly here is the self-righteous implication that Good Jews are not "prejudiced against the German nation". We must all be sensible and reasonable and make it clear that we don't hold anything against the Germans, otherwise we are horrible racists.

Dear Ms McDonagh: the Germans killed six million Jews within living memory. I'm not sure how many Jews really are prejudiced against the German nation; I don't think most are (I seem to recall a survey, recently, which showed that Israelis in particular have surprisingly positive feelings towards Germans today). But if there are Jews out there who hate "the Germans", can you really blame them? Don't you think it is a normal and natural emotional reaction to the genocide of a people?

In the face of such a national (and often personal) trauma, the polite conventions of political correctness are simply irrelevant.

No comments: