Friday, December 9, 2011

Bieganski at Georgetown University

Georgetown Above the Potomac. Source: Wikipedia.
On Wednesday, December 7, 2011, I participated in the "Polish-Jewish Dialogue: A New Opening" Conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Lazarski University of Warsaw, Georgetown's BMW Center for German and European Studies, and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland were our gracious and generous hosts.

The conference was an inspiration. Participants included dynamic, intelligent, charming and passionate contributors to productive Polish-Jewish cooperation on the economic, cultural, scholarly and military fronts. The positive energy I encountered at this conference was an antidote to Polonia's crisis in leadership, organization, and vision. It was also an antidote to the Bieganski image in media, scholarship, and folk culture.

The problems we face are real. The solutions are also very real, and those solutions were abundantly evident at the Georgetown Conference. The solutions are the indomitable faith, hope, and love in human hearts. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it," declares the New Testament. The Old Testament reports, "Compared to light, wisdom takes precedence; for that, indeed, night supplants, but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom."

The energetic, caring, involved participants in the Georgetown conference are proof that, in the end, the bad guys won't win. In the long run, good will triumph. That is as natural as water flowing downhill.

Conference Welcoming Remarks: Prof. Jeffrey Anderson, Graf Goltz Professor and Director of the BMW Center for German and European Studies, stressed the importance of educating the next generation of transatlantic leaders. As part of this, historical memory and reconciliation are key. I liked Prof. Anderson's comments, and I wish I had had more time to talk to him. I'm grateful that he understands that "historical memory" is a product that must be cultivated.

Formal statements were read by members of the diplomatic corps: Polish Ambassador to the US Robert Kupiecki, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, and Wojciech Piekarski, former Polish ambassador to the US. Of course the Polish ambassador talked about Polish righteous among the nations, Jan Karski, and the Jewish cultural festival in Krakow. Of course the Israeli ambassador talked about the long history of Jews in Poland, anti-Semitism at Polish sporting events, and good things Poles have done to combat anti-Semitism. Someone talked about restitution of Jewish properties.

Georgetown Prof. Robert J. Lieber knew Jan Karski personally and offered a talk about their relationship.

Conference Panel One: Overcoming the Past with the Politics of Today: Is Strategic Partnership between Poland and Israel Possible? Reality or Political Fiction?

Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, of Beith Warsaw. "World War Two Ended in Poland in 1989:
Understanding the Implications of that Statement for the Last Twenty Years." I very much liked Rabbi Beliak's talk. As the title of his talk suggests, Rabbi Beliak went out of his way to acknowledge Polish feelings, perspectives, and priorities. I found his compassionate and selfless awareness of the Polish worldview, and his willingness to devote his limited time during this conference to expressing the Polish worldview, to be quite moving.

I often emphasize to readers of my book: Jews are among those working to decommission the Bieganski stereotype. Rabbi Beliak's talk was exemplary of this.

Rabbi Beliak stated, "History does not have inevitabilities." Readers of chapter seven of "Bieganski" will understand the profound importance of that statement.

Rabbi Beliak posited a though experiment: A Jewish Rip van Winkle falls asleep in September, 1939 and is awakened in 1945 and is told that most of the Jews of Europe have been murdered. His response: "The French are capable of anything!"

Rabbi Beliak also made it a point to mention the number of Polish, non-Jewish casualties during World War Two. He mentioned that there was every reason to believe that the Polish people would disappear. "Yet they survived." He sees a parallel between Poles and Jews. "There are echoes for me in many attempts to destroy Jewish culture" and Jewish survival in spite of those genocidal efforts. "It is difficult for people to see suffering from the other side," he said. Rabbi Beliak demonstrated that his soul is large enough to feel compassion for "the other side," and I was very moved by this.

Rabbi Beliak spoke of the roots of Judaism's major movements in Poland. "I end," he said, "more with a prayer than with an historical observation." Amen, I say.

Brigade Commander General Uri Agmon. Israeli liaison officer to the US army. "Poland and Israel as Strategic Allies." General Agmon began with an anecdote about sharing a cab with his Polish non-Jewish fellow conference attendees. The cab was driven by a Muslim. General Agmon wondered what each of the people sitting in that cab thought of the other. "Everything is possible" he said. "The past and future are combined…We can overcome the nightmare of the past." Israel and Poland can be and are allies, he said, at least partly because both share a Western orientation.

States have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests, he said, paraphrasing Lord Palmerston.

General Agmon closed with a poignant comment about how "Some Iranian, some worker or shopkeeper, who has never met me, hates me. People are funny."

I've met many Iranians, and I know they are thoroughly brainwashed by their government. I mentioned this to General Agmon, and he said "We are all brainwashed." Not to the extent that Iranians are, I would argue. There is no freedom of conscience in a country where, today, Yousef Nadarkhani faces the state-sanctioned death penalty for being a Christian.

Dr. Pawel Grzabka, CEO of CEE Property Group, Head of Supervisory Board of Sun and Snow Group. "Opportunities for Expanding Polish-Israeli Business Cooperation into Strategic Partnership in the Eyes of the World Economic Fluctuation and European Union Financial Troubles."

Dr. Grzabka's rather long talk title sums up his talk rather well. "The future is bright," he reported.

Maciej Jachimczyk: "The Last Thirty Years of Polish-Jewish Relations from the Perspective of a Muslim." I was an innocent little boy in Poland and my classmates said something mean about Jews, Jachimczyk began. Perhaps one is to conclude from his personal anecdote that Poles really are the world's worst anti-Semites, as is so often accepted as fact.

Jachimczyk went on to depict himself as a lone seeker of truth. This ascetic image was undermined by Jachimczyk's constantly mentioning how many famous people he knows: Father Jozef Tischner, Leszek Kolakowski, Timothy Garton Ash, Rafael Scharf, and the famous venues where he carried out his quest, including Tyniec Monastery, Jagiellonian University, and Oxford.

Jachimczyk's quest forced him to conclude that "Anti-Semitism is a Christian sickness which kills Jews," that anti-Semitism is a "product of Christianity," that "Jesus and his followers had no idea of starting a new religion;" that they were and remained faithful Jews, that Christianity is a big lie, that "There is no place for me in Christianity … Christianity is responsible for the death of six million Jews."

Further, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski is just another apologist for Polish Anti-Semitism. There were many rabbis at the Georgetown conference, but no priests. That was proof that priests are anti-Semitic, Jachimczyk charged. (The conference organizer admitted that he  had invited no priests.)

Jachimczyk converted to Islam. Islam is not anti-Semitic. The Koran's version of Jesus is historically accurate.

The war on terror is really a war on Islamism. The war on terror is really a state-sponsored distraction for the populace. Americans are confused about Muslims. In conclusion, Jachimczyk said, "Poland must purify itself from the ghosts of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism."

***

Jachimczyk's talk was not only the worst of the conference, it was the single worst conference talk I've ever heard. Jachimczyk made sweeping, bigoted, false, and unsupported generalizations in a rambling, unfocused, emotional and personal rant.

Scholarship uses accepted and proven facts to, through a rigorous process, reach new truths. Real scholarship requires fearless interrogation and dispassionate testing of each assertion. It moves slowly and carefully and tests every step, every assertion. This testing is slow and painful, but if you start out with faulty assertions, you will end not at the destination of truth, but at the destination of reaffirming your own solipsistic bigotry.

Hate is built on undisciplined personal anecdotes, and an over-investment in one's own feelings.

Jachimczyk recounted his own biography, his own life story. This is an interesting rhetorical ploy. "I lived this! You can't tell me that my own experience is wrong!" is an assertion one frequently encounters in the screeds of bigots. "A Jew cheated me! A Pole beat me up! I know that Jews are all Shylock from my own life experience! I know that Poles are all Bieganski from my own life experience! You can't take my biography away from me!"

Well, no one wants to take anyone's biography away from anyone. Rather, what scholarly conferences need is scholarship, and scholarship is not rambling, unedited and unexamined personal rant.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that school children around the world say bad things about Jews, Poles, women, Catholics, black people, fat people, retarded people, homosexuals, handicapped people and every other group on earth every day. That rather simple degree of scholarly interrogation had no place in Jachimczyk's talk.

Jachimczyk is wrong about a more important matter. Nazism, not Christianity, is responsible for the death of six million Jews.

Six million Jews were not the only victims of the Nazis. The first and last group Nazis mass-murdered were handicapped people. Polish Catholics, Polish priests, Soviet prisoners of war, and others were victims of mass death. This is entirely consistent with Nazism's intellectual foundations, which were not only not Christian, they were genocidally anti-Christian. Nazism's utterly non-Christian foundations are outlined in a few previous blog posts, including this one and this one.

People with some power, like Jachimczyk, are allowed to distort history.

Jachimczyk's conversion to Islam, and his dawa – proselytizing – for Islam during his talk at a scholarly conference – renders Jachimczyk's talk hypocritical and ridiculous.

Blatant, unapologetic, genocidal, Anti-Semitism is epidemic in the Muslim world. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, mass murdered and enslaved Jews, significantly, the Banu Qurayza. Mohammed ordered the exile of Jews and Christians from what is now Saudi Arabia. The Koran describes Allah turning Christians and Jews into monkeys and pigs, and describes Jews as the worst enemies of Muslims. Mohammed declared that even rocks and trees will, on some blessed future day, tell Muslims to kill Jews.

Islam's treatment of Jews throughout the centuries and in various Muslim countries includes forcing Jews to wear a shoulder patch in the shape of monkey and other humiliations inherent in dhimmi status. There were massacres, such as the 1066 Grenada massacre.

Hitler's friend, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, stated, "According to the Muslim religion, the defense of your life is a duty which can only be fulfilled by annihilating the Jews." SS chief Himmler greeted the Mufti thus, "To the Grand Mufti: The National Socialist movement of Greater Germany has, since its inception, inscribed upon its flag the fight against the world Jewry. It has therefore followed with particular sympathy the struggle of freedom-loving Arabs, especially in Palestine, against Jewish interlopers. In the recognition of this enemy and of the common struggle against it lies the firm foundation of the natural alliance that exists between the National Socialist Greater Germany and the freedom-loving Muslims of the whole world."

One of many sources on Islam's problem with Jews: "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History" by Andrew G. Bostom.

Jachimczyk's insistence that the Koran records the "real" Jesus is also ridiculous. The Jesus of the Gospels is the single best-attested personage from the Ancient Mediterranean world; this is a matter of fact, not opinion. We have better proof that Jesus existed than that Alexander the Great existed. The Gospels were written within decades of his life. Jesus' biographers came from his milieu and spoke his language. One does not have to be a Christian to acknowledge these facts; the historical consensus is that the Jesus of the Gospels was a real person.

The Koran was written at least six hundred and fifty years after Jesus' death, in Arabic, a language Jesus did not speak, by moon-and-star worshipping Arabs who were not part of the Judeo-Christian tradition and did not understand it. Mohammed received a garbled version of Jesus' life from Waraqa, the cousin of Mohammed's wife and employer. Mohammed thought that Moses was Jesus' uncle. Moahmmed included local children's fairytales about Jesus in the Koran, for example, Jesus turning clay birds into real ones. Mohammed uses Jesus to enhance his own status: Jesus did not die on the cross; rather, Allah sent a mannequin to be crucified in Jesus' place. Mohammed reports that Jesus will return someday to destroy all worship of Jesus, condemn Christians to hell, and help Islam triumph.

This is a tangent; I just want to emphasize how out of place Jachimczyk's talk was. He made one bizarre statement after another. His only support was "this is my real life" and "I know famous people." Polish-Jewish relations deserve a higher standard of proof than this.

No one challenged Jachimczyk. Of course no one challenged him. He was speaking in a protected environment, where his point of view is empowered, and the truth is imperiled. Christophobia is rampant on American university campuses. At the same time, the thought police are so thorough in their shielding of Islam from any criticism that when Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, showed a powerpoint to his fellow officers explaining why Muslims must kill infidels, no one did anything. Hasan went on to murder thirteen people at Fort Hood, Texas. Yes, this shielding of Islam from any criticism is the rule even on Catholic campuses like Georgetown.

Panel Two: Personal Impressions of Jews Living in Poland and Poles Living in Israel.

Rabbi Shalom Stambler
talked about being a rabbi in Warsaw. He said that he knew that Poland "didn't have such a good image" and he was worried about how he'd be received. He's since changed his mind. "I wish Jews were as interested in Yiddishkeit as Poles are!" The Jewish presence in Poland is not just about museums and cemeteries but living culture, he said, culture supported by Poles.

Alon Simhayoff, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Cultural Attaché of Israel in Poland: "Three Years in Warsaw as an Israeli Diplomat: Personal Impressions."
Alon Simhayoff said that all doors were opened for him in Poland, and that there is much cooperation. There are at least six universities that offer Jewish studies. We have good friends within the church, in spite of anti-Semitic voices like Radio Maria. "I feel this openness in my everyday life," he said. He mentioned a Polish taxi driver telling him, with enthusiasm, that he had a CD by an Israeli singer. Who might this be, Mr. Simhayoff wondered. It turned out to be a CD by Barbara Streisand.

In the Jewish Festival in Cracow Poles cheered the Israeli ambassador - how many places in Europe would that happen? Mr. Simhayoff reported. People do still harbor old stereotypes, though, including the fallacy that "Jews control the media." People repeat this even while repeating that the media is unfair to Israel. There are positive people in every generation and every social class. I very much applaud Alon for saying this. It defies the fallacy of "universal human progress" that I condemn in "Bieganski."

Mr. Simhayoff mentioned the positive changes in the field of education for tolerance in Poland and commended the Polish authorities for that, but also mentioned that if it is not combined with enforcements efforts, then it is not enough, since the result is events such as the attack on the house of the Director of Teatr NN in Lublin, performed by Neo-Nazis, who were never caught. This is one example. Other cases of hate crimes are closed either by the police or by the prosecutor's office.


Jacek Olejnik: Perceptions of Polish-Jewish Relations from the Perspective of the Polish Diplomat Living in Israel."

Mr. Olejnik quoted Sheva Weiss, "Relations between Poland and Israel can be excellent or none." Right now these relations are excellent, he said. He said that there is a mirror phenomenon to anti-Semitism in Poland; anti-Polish feelings in Israel.

Eran Huppert: "Between Real and Surreal: The Voice of the Son of a Holocaust Survivor from Israel, Holding Dual Polish and Israeli Citizenship, Living Now in Poland." Mr. Huppert talked about how his grandfather, who had fought with Pilsudski in 1920, was forced to retire from the army because of his Jewish identity. He reported feeling victorious as a Jew living in Poland "five minutes walk from where my grandfather was executed" during the Holocaust. He reported seeing hundreds of anti-Semitic graffiti, and no anti-German or anti-Russian graffiti in Poland. In Wroclaw, he saw, in a very public place, in very large letters, "Juden Raus." He also sees a picture of an old Jewish man holding a gold coin. This racist image is hung in businesses and homes as a good luck charm. At the same time, Mr. Huppert says that his personal experiences living as a Jew in Poland have been good, and he has had almost no negative experiences. If he had to pick anywhere to live in Europe today, it would be Warsaw.

Rabbi Simcha Krakowski, President of the Chasidic Foundation in Tel Aviv: "History of the Chasidic Movement in Poland."

Rabbi Krakowski offered a history of Hasidism in Poland. He reported that there are many accounts of Polish non-Jews (in his speech he used the word "goyim") helped by Jewish Hasidic saints. Poles enjoy the jobs and income that come from Jewish tourism to Poland.

Hannah Rosenthal: Greetings from the Secretary of State

Mrs. Rosenthal's father is a Holocaust survivor. She monitors anti-Semitism in 193 countries. She chooses to focus on Poland. "There's a maturity in the reconciliation between the world Polish population and the world Jewish population." Young people may ask their grandparents, "What were you doing during the war? What guilt do I need to feel?" There are disgusting anti-Semitic events in sports. Tadeusz Pieronek, a Polish bishop, engaged in Holocaust denial. Rosenthal quoted the Talmud, "We are not required to finish the task, but neither are we allowed to desist from it."

Panel Three: The Nature of Change in the Perception of Polish-Jewish Relations in Recent Times.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich: "How Polish-Jewish Relations Practically Function in Today's Poland: An Analysis of Successes and Failures. What has Caused the Change in Polish-Jewish Relations in the Past Twenty Years."
Rabbi Schudrich and I were on the same panel. I asked him where in the states he is from. The Bronx. I once lived on Moshulu Parkway, and worked in the Bronx Zoo, I said. I've been a fan of Rabbi Schudrich's since seeing him in Mishael Porembski's film "Burning Questions." In that film he says that it is Poles' obligation to tell their own story. I could not agree more.

Rabbi Schudrich mentioned a previous, Jewish name for Poland, one that could be translated "here lives God." He said that Polish democracy is a "miracle."

Rabbi Schudrich asked the key question: "Which is the real Poland? The szmalcowniks or the righteous? Which is the real Poland? The many Jewish festivals or Radio Maria?" Of course I think he can find the answer in "Bieganski." His answer is "both." "Poland has good guys and bad guys. The good guys are growing in number."

Pope John Paul II contributed to the growth in the number of good guys. He fought Christian anti-Semitism more than anyone else in the past 2,000 years. The fall of Communism resulted in a tremendous release of energy. The discussion of the Jedwabne massacre was a watershed moment. The good guys on both sides found each other. This discussion deepened Rabbi Schudrich's affection and respect for Poland. "We need to feel each other's pain." Nowadays, perhaps, relations are too normal – we need to remain alert, and pay attention to fighting xenophobia.

Dr. Danusha Goska: Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype.

I spoke next, and, as the only invited female scholarly speaker, I focused on fashions and recipes.

I mean, seriously. I haven't been in such an androcentric environment since I was among the first to stand in line for the first local showing of "Jurassic Park." At times I was the only woman in the room.

There should have been more women at this conference. Too much of Polish-Jewish relations is, to use a technical term, a pissing contest, a testosterone-fueled, zero-sum competition whose goal is domination, even the domination of others' narratives, of others' ethical self-definition: "We suffered more than you! Your hate for us was worse than our hate for you!" Our conferences will be at their best when they reflect the real world, which is fifty percent female, and when they reflect women's ways of understanding diversity and coexistence.

Mr. Sebastian Rejak, Department of Africa and the Middle East, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Poland. "The Myth of Polish Death Camps v. the Myth of Polish Innocence."


Mr. Rejak was the first conference speaker to mention the involvement of Jews in the post-war Communist security apparatus. As he said, as Dr. Stanislaw Krajewski has pointed out in his book, that was and is part of the history of Polish Jews.

Mr. Rejak also mentioned the 1941 Jedwabne massacre of Jews by Poles and the 1946 Kielce pogrom of Jews by Poles. He also mentioned szmalcowniks, or Poles who betrayed Jews for money during the Nazi occupation.

Mr. Rejak reported that every year, hundreds of sources, all over the world, use the term "Polish concentration camps" or other terms like it. This term is a distortion. These concentration camps were Nazi institutions, not Polish. They were placed in Poland occupied by Nazis. "Poland has too many actual stains on its collective conscience for it to willingly accept responsibility for crimes committed for someone else."

Mr. Rejak also stressed the need for "partnership" in dialogue not in terms of "equality of suffering or victimhood or participation in atrocities" but in terms of approach. "There should be no 'inferior' and 'superior' parties in a dialogue."

Mr. Rejak also mentioned Dabru Emet. I really appreciated this placement of Polish-Jewish relations in the wider context of Christian-Jewish dialogue.

***

I'll add this comment for readers unfamiliar with this history. There was a disproportionate participation of Jews in the post-war Communist security apparatus, notorious for its torture and murder of Polish World War Two heroes like General Nil and Witold Pilecki, and for defaming these men in the press as "spit-flecked dwarves."


***

I sincerely thank those who contributed to bringing this conference about: Artur Wroblewski of Lararski University, and his sister, Joanna Wroblewska. Artur cited Eran Huppert as a co-planner, so I thank him, too. I thank Jeffrey Anderson of Georgetown University.

This conference was a terrifically impressive feat. It may have been the first time that representatives of all the branches of Judaism in Poland were present at one conference.

The speakers were dynamic people who are actively doing things to make the world a better place. Their best selves will triumph.

I would like to see a few differences between this conference and the next conference like it.

We had very few attendees. The conference was held at the wrong time. December 7, especially on college campuses, is part of Christmas crunch. Next time: Better timing!

There should have been more publicity, and it should have been more broadly based.

All too often, those involved in Polish-Jewish relations see the entire universe through that narrow pinhole. They don't understand that many other people love to hear our story.

I speak at libraries and churches to the general public. Irish and Italian and African American audiences become passionate about my talks. Polonia! Understand that you are part of the world, and your story is part of the world's story. For conferences like this, invite anyone interested in Christian-Jewish relations, multiculturalism, World War Two history, narrative, official and subaltern histories, racism, forgiveness and reconciliation – that's everybody, people!

And more women. Really.

33 comments:

  1. I have to admit, I like what's happening with the Polish-Jewish dialogue and I think Poland's support of Israel is key? It's funny because I think the Netanyahu govts policies are brutally unfair and not good for Israel in the long-run. So, on one hand , I dont support Poland's support of Israel and on the other, wonder if Poland can afford not to acquiesce to the Jews?

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  2. I wish this comment had been signed. I wonder who wrote this comment.

    Please, folks, sign your posts. Thanks.

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  3. "wonder if Poland can afford not to acquiesce to the Jews"

    Poster, after identifying yourself with real first and last names, please explain this comment.

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  4. For the rest of the World,WWII ended in 1945 but for Poland the war style occuption did not end till 1989-- thei idea expressed by Rabbi Beliak is probably the single most true statement on the Polish Jewish relation ship. It lends palusible expalantion to Jedwabne and Kielce. Prior to 1939 Jews, Polish Jews and Poles lived harmoniously( with the exception of Pogroms in Russian occupied Poland and ethnic cleansing in the German occupied Poland DURING THE 123years of PARTITIONS) as two Peoples could- war destroyed it all. Yet the Yad Vashem is full of Polish heroes who knowingly sacrificed their lives to save others.

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  5. Danusia, Re Your reply of Dec.09-@14:37 --Question - How do you sign a comment?

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  6. Hi, how to sign a comment ... on my screen it asks me to comment as ... and I select "google account" which adds my name.

    But I think you can just put your name at the end of the post.

    thank you.

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  7. One aspect of this conference is the continued derogatory references to RADIO MARYJA. In fact, far from being anti-Semitic, this radio program hardly mentions Jews at all in its programming. And when it does, it only opposes such things as the mass extortion of moneys from Poland attempted by certain Jewish groups.

    I wish that more people would at least listen regularly to RADIO MARYJA before repeating canned prejudical remarks about it.

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  8. Jan, we disagree so strongly on this matter I don't know how to even comment in a way that might matter to you.

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  9. Hannah Rosenthal's talk is online:

    http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/rm/2011/178447.htm

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  10. Without being bellicose or disrespectful in any way, I challenge those who accuse RADIO MARYJA of being anti-Semitic to compile a list of specific programs and their specific content that they consider to be anti-Semitic.

    Per Mr. Rejak's comments, I wonder if this conference showed any movement at all towards Jews assuming any responsibility for the negative aspects of Polish-Jewish relations.

    As for Hannah Rosenthal's talk, which I have just read, and which mentioned groups that combat hateful anti-Semitic remarks and graffiti in Poland, I wonder if there exists any parallel Jewish group that actively monitors and condemns the mountains of anti-Polish remarks that exist in Jewish pronouncements and publications.

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  11. JP, you wrote:

    "I challenge those who accuse RADIO MARYJA of being anti-Semitic to compile a list of specific programs and their specific content that they consider to be anti-Semitic."

    Radio Maria (I prefer English orthography when writing in English) is not just anti-Semitic, it is also homophobic and misogynist.

    Compile a list? JP, people have already done that. Google "Radio Maryja" and you find news report after news report. These reports cite actual quotations, speakers, and dates of broadcast.

    Conversely, I have seen no data from supporters of Radio Maria to refute these charges.

    JP, you wrote:

    "I wonder if this conference showed any movement at all towards Jews assuming any responsibility for the negative aspects of Polish-Jewish relations."

    That in fact has happened.

    Ewa Hoffman, for example, in her book "Shtetl," states on page 16, "an ethos of separateness has its price."

    Herman Weliczker Wells, in his memoir, talks about how his fellow Jews built a wall of contempt between themselves and Polish non-Jews.

    I *think* that Rabbi Schudrich said that he felt shame when contemplating the Jews who participated in the Communist security apparatus. I hope I am not quoting him incorrectly. I did invite him to have a look at this blog post and correct anything I attribute to him wrongly.

    "I wonder if there exists any parallel Jewish group that actively monitors and condemns the mountains of anti-Polish remarks that exist in Jewish pronouncements and publications"

    I think that that is an interesting question and I think you could ask her that very question. She is a public figure and a servant of the people and I think encouraging her to think about that would be a good thing.

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  12. Thanks for your comments. I am aware of the Google claims. It amounts to a small number (not extensive list) of questionable statements by a handful of guests on RADIO MARYJA, very likely out of context, on such things as the boycotts of Jews, the value or otherwise of Poles commemorating Hanukkah, etc. All this exists out of hundreds of auditions of RADIO MARYJA. Is this anti-Semitism? Only if any and all criticism of Jews is automatically anti-Semitism, if all boycotts at all times are wrong, etc. There is nothing to refute.

    Homophobia? The entire Catholic Church does not recognize homosexuality as normal--not only RADIO MARYJA.

    Misogynism? Half or more of commentators on RADIO MARYJA are women. Sure doesn't sound like misogynism to me--unless of course you assume that opposition to abortion is necessarily a form of mysogynism.

    Jews taking some ownership? I am aware of these and other examples, but, unfortunately, they definitely do not represent mainstream Jewish thinking.

    Jews monitoring Polonophobia within the Jewish community? Interesting continued question. We shall see...

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  13. From the Vatican webpage:

    Homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

    Radio Maryja has contributed to violence and hate against homosexuals, and to the poisoning of minds, demonization, and scapegoating of homosexuals. Not to the compassion and respect mandated by the Vatican.

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/02/14/poland-official-homophobia-threatens-human-rights

    The Vatican has criticized Radio Maryja: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Maryja#Conflict_with_Vatican

    Rydzyk called a meeting of women a "cesspool."

    One cannot protest discrimination against Poles and then refuse to acknowledge discrimination by Poles against others and maintain any semblance of consistency.

    Enough. I don't want to waste any more of my time stating here what is stated better elsewhere about Radio Maryja and what a shame it is to Poles, Polonia, and Poland.

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  14. OK, so I guess we will have to drop the subject of RADIO MARYJA, except for me saying that there is a world of difference between disagreeing with someone and advocating discrimination or violence against them. Also, the perceptive reader will realize that the venomous statements directed against RADIO MARYJA are identical to standard left-wing attacks on those with whom they disagree. Of course, there are also leftists in the Catholic Church. Finally, as I had said elsewhere, I urge readers who are Polish-speaking to listen to RADIO MARYJA and form their own opinions of it.

    Finally, to refocus this discussion:

    Since you were present at the Dialogue, and I was not, I again ask the following (and I am talking about the Dialogue, not what was written in books or said before): "Per Mr. Rejak's comments, I wonder if this conference showed any movement at all towards Jews assuming any responsibility for the negative aspects of Polish-Jewish relations."

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  15. Sufficient data can be found here: http://glosrydzyka.blox.pl/html - with genuine recordings of the guests and priests hosting the auditions

    http://www.radiomaryja.pl.eu.org/ - sufficient analysis of the radio station.

    While the radio does a lot of good, especially when supporting Polish patriotism, we cannot gloss over the negatives.

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  16. Since you allowed another posting on RADIO MARYJA after you had said that you did not want to talk about it anymore, I also now make another posting.

    I visited the sites provided by Jakub. Typical of left-wing hatchet jobs, they quote without providing proper context. For instance, under the section on Xenophobia, Intolerance, and anti-Semitism, there is the "Poland for Poles" quote. The reader is led to believe that this is a promotion of intolerance. It is no such thing. As a regular listener, I myself have heard similar quotes on RADIO MARYJA. What they refer to is Poland preserving her self-rule and not deferring to inimical pressures from foreign groups such as those connected with the European Union.

    Likewise, a statement like "A Pole is a Catholic" does not mean that non-Catholic Poles don't exist or are unwelcome in Poland. It rather means such things as the fact that a tiny minority of anti-Christians should not dictate policy in Poland, such as the attempted forced removal of crosses in public places.

    Intolerance in Poland comes from the secular left, not from RADIO MARYJA.

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  17. From the Vatican webpage:

    "it is true that certain priests contributed to anticlerical feelings...

    "Consequences of the polarisation at stake are relatively strong because, in the Communist period, Catholics in Poland practically had no experience of pluralism and their reactions to basic problems were uniform in nature. In this new social situation they must adjust to cultural pluralism without accepting doctrinal relativism. This, certainly, is a long process which of its nature brings many negative by-products. The polarisation of attitudes among Catholics in Poland became even more complicated when Radio Maryja, a nation-wide radio system organised by the Redemptorist Fathers, became much more involved in spreading risky politics than in spreading the Gospel. The radio attacked many honest and trustworthy Polish politicians because they did not follow the radical and simplified vision accepted by nationalists. Since a part of society regarded the radio as the Church radio station, many of them were disappointed that such a primitive form of politics was accepted by the Bishops. To explain the situation and to influence the Provincial of the Redemptorists to change radically the radio’s policy, Cardinal Glemp sent an official letter to the Provincial and asked him personally to find a new balance between Christian commitment to truth and social-political programs on the radio. The Provincial reacted more diplomatically than effectively; but the very fact that the hierarchy criticised irresponsible political comments contributed to a general understanding of the difference between the Church’s standpoint in social-political issues and a private version of political radicalism that was practised very often by frustrated lay people who did not pay much attention to the principles of Christian ethics."

    Roma Locuta Est – Causa Finita Est

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/cultr/documents/rc_pc_cultr_20000302_doc_i-2000-plenaria-2_en.html#8

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  18. No doubt the Vatican statement is correct about Catholic priests contributing to polarization. However, there are not a few liberals in the Catholic Church who have departed from Catholic teachings--which is one reason that the Catholic Church has grown moribund and wishy-washy.

    Obeying the Gospel means following its teachings. It does not mean adopting a tepid view of its teachings, nor does it imply silence in the face of attacks on the Church.

    I also think that the facts make clear that it is the secular left that accounts for the bulk of polarization, not the Catholic Right.

    Thus, last summer, it was not Fr. Rydzyk and his fans who went around trying to force others to pray or believe as he does. It was bands of young leftists went around beating up those who were praying. It was secularists who mocked and offended those who believe, and profaned churches. It was secularists who tried to force the removal of crosses from public places. Etc. Etc.

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  19. One of the interesting points which were made in the conference was that there were people in Poland who held antisemitic views without even being aware of the fact that what they said was actually anti-semitic. I think that Mr. Jan Peczis is a fine example. Supporting statements such as Poland for Poles and A Pole is a Catholic is nothing but extreme nationalism.

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  20. Anonymous, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I prefer posts that are signed with a real first name and a real last name.

    Obviously, I disagree with Jan about Radio Maryja (and Dmowski) but I admire his presentation of his controversial views under a real name.

    Anonymous, you wrote:

    "there were people in Poland who held antisemitic views without even being aware of the fact that what they said was actually anti-semitic."

    In fact there are people of ALL ethnicities and social classes who are bigots without realizing it.

    As a working class "Polak" female Catholic in the Ivory Tower, I encounter such people regularly -- enlightened people with PhDs.

    One of my grad school friends at UC Berkeley, Nick S, Jewish, said to me, as a compliment, "You can't possibly be Polish Catholic. You must have Jewish ancestry without realizing it. You read."

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  21. "Anonymous" is parroting the anti-S. label in the typical thoughtless, accusatory fashion. Who do you think that you are impressing?

    Define this term before you use it! And who decides what is and what isn't anti-Semitic? The Judeocentrists? Or some other self-appointed thought police?

    Extreme nationalism? Reread what I said before making such silly, irresponsible statements. Or do you actually believe that Poland sticking up for her sovereignty (or what remains of it under the EU) is extreme nationalism?

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  22. Jan, you wrote:


    ""Anonymous" is parroting the anti-S. label in the typical thoughtless, accusatory fashion. Who do you think that you are impressing?"

    Jan, please be civil, and make your point without ad hominem commentary about other posters.

    Thank you.

    "A Pole is a Catholic"

    Jan, I am a lifelong Catholic and Polish and I find this statement reprehensible. I see no logic behind it, and no way to defend it.

    I'm not "Judeocentric."

    Thanks again.

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  23. My reply was submitted in response to Anonymous, and was directed entirely to him/her, and not to you. The fact that it appeared after your own response to Anonymous made it sound as though I was accusing you, Dr. Goska, of being Judeocentric. That was certainly not the case--far from it. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Civility? Perhaps Anonymous should be the one taken to task for being uncivil--for accusing me of being an anti-Semite without even attempting to explain him/herself.

    To clarify and defend my previous remark also made by RADIO MARYJA, I repeat it:

    "Likewise, a statement like "A Pole is a Catholic" does not mean that non-Catholic Poles don't exist or are unwelcome in Poland. It rather means such things as the fact that a tiny minority of anti-Christians should not dictate policy in Poland, such as the attempted forced removal of crosses in public places."

    It is no more complicated than that.

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  24. "A Pole is a Catholic."

    This slogan suggests a totalitarian state that rejects freedom of conscience. In this totalitarian state, if one wishes to enjoy the benefits of citizenship, one must conform one's conscience to a doctrine mandated by the state. One may not think. One may not question. One may not wonder. One may not even pray as an individual, in quiet conversation with God. One must only pray in unison with a state-sanctioned mob.

    The benefits of citizenship: to be able to buy and sell. To be taxed fairly. To be able to join civil service and the military and rise in the ranks commensurate to one's service. To be able to summon the police if one is attacked.

    The benefits of citizenship: to feel comfortable and included with one's next door neighbor.

    One could not rely on any of those if one, for whatever reason, fell out of alignment with the way that the powers-that-be define "Catholic."

    This is a dystopic vision.

    More than that – it is utterly contrary to Poland's history. Poland was able to win one of its greatest victories, the Battle of Grunwald against the Teutonic Knights, because it allied itself with Lithuania, still significantly pagan.

    Poland at the height of its power, during its Golden Age, was, as Ewa Hoffman put it in "Shtetl," a model of multiculturalism "avant le lettre."

    To be a Pole was to be a Catholic, to be a Jew, to be a proto-Unitarian, to be Eastern Orthodox, to be a Muslim. All of these groups contributed to Poland and Poles were proud of their multicultural society.

    Finally, "A Pole is a Catholic" is so anti-Christian one has to attribute it to anti-Christ.

    Jesus would not say this. Jesus would not condone this.

    Again and again lesser forces tried to tempt Jesus to claim political power. Satan tempted Jesus to claim the thrones of worldly kingdoms. Jesus resisted. Jesus' apostles asked him to name political favorites among the twelve. Jesus refused. Followers asked Jesus to settle court cases. Again, he refused. When asked what to do about people who refused to join up, Jesus told his apostles just to leave the town. Don't arrest the people who refuse. Don't bully them. Just move on. Jesus said, "Render unto Cesar what is Cesar's." Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

    This isn't just the viewpoint of theologians; it is the viewpoint of historians of religion. Historians root the concept of the separation of church and state in "Render unto Cesar what is Cesar's and unto God what is God's."

    There is a totalitarian system that demands power over the conscience of every citizen. That system claims the right to murder good men like Yousef Nadarkhani for the crime of being Christian.

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  25. "This slogan suggests a totalitarian state that rejects freedom of conscience..."

    I am sorry, Dr. Goska, and I have no intention of being disrespectful to you, but what you are saying is absolutely silly. To me, it borders on irrationality. You are letting your imagination run rather freely in reaction to one simple statement: "A Pole is a Catholic".

    As used on RADIO MARYJA, it means none of the fantastic things that you attribute to it in your last post. Never has RADIO MARYJA included an audition that advocated a totalitarian state of any form. Never has it favored Catholic political rule over Poland. Never has it denied, or even neglected, the contributions that non-Catholics had made to Poland in the past. Never has it even breathed a hint that non-Catholics should not be treated fairly.

    As I had said twice before, it simply means that Poland is based on Catholic principles, and that the tiny minority that is actively hostile to these principles should not be allowed to dictate its will on the Polish nation. The latter is what is anti-Christ.

    I am still trying to get the point across, so will repeat my statement yet a third time:

    "Likewise, a statement like "A Pole is a Catholic" does not mean that non-Catholic Poles don't exist or are unwelcome in Poland. It rather means such things as the fact that a tiny minority of anti-Christians should not dictate policy in Poland, such as the attempted forced removal of crosses in public places."

    It is the secularists, and not RADIO MARYJA, who are intolerant of others, and who do not understand pluralism.

    "Separation of church and state" is not absolute. In any case, it should not be used in Poland as an excuse for letting a tiny group of secularists rule Poland, as has happened in the USA.

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  26. Thanks Danusha,

    You are doing such a great job! The conference although it seemed flawed by some of the usual bigotry, under a cleverer masquerade, seemed like a real step in the right direction.

    The commentary has been great and lively as well! It reminds me a bit of the 1980’s Papal position on the then-popular Liberation Theology that was particularly strong in Latin America. That “Christian Marxism” was condemned by the Vatican. It looks like the Vatican is being relatively consistent with that apolitical view in today’s struggles in Poland and in keeping with the truths noted by Danusha above.

    This is not to say I don’t agree with the anti-EU positions of the Polish Right. Many people in Europe see their sovereign rights threatened by the EU, with the UK’s recent anti-EU vote as an example. Poland has greatly benefited from its un-tied currency, as just one example. In Poland, even being a NATO member means that your President and his NATO generals can be killed in a foreign soil plane crash and NATO and the US allow a deeply flawed investigation to take place. From past history as well, I can see where Poles might not place great expectations on foreign alliances…

    Again though, huge kudos to Danusha for the efforts. I never thought it was possible to bridge the Jewish issue, even though, in my family and personal dealings it was never an issue. I remember my father (ex-coal miner turned small businessman) telling me when I was a kid that some old Jewish lady at the clothing store was Polish. He did not note the Jewish part. It was years later when it hit me: that old lady was a Jew! (I had always wondered why her name was so strange for speaking Polish).

    BR,
    MB

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  27. MB, THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking a moment to say positive things about my work here on this blog. You can't know how much it means to me.

    It boggles my mind, sometimes, how some can refuse to see anything positive, can do nothing but focus on the negative and carp and complain. And you don't even see the hate mail I get, which I don't even post. (Most from Poles and Polonians who attack and insult me in every way imaginable. It's really sad.)

    Thank you MB for seeing something positive in the conference and in my report on it.

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  28. First of all, congrats to Dr. Goska for running this blog. Re Radio Maryja, although it is not an antisemitic radio station "by definition", it does diffuse some xenophobic ideology (not exclusively but predominantly antisemitic). That the journalists do not refer to Jews explicitely? Folks know the code: whenever the "obvious ethnicity", "people of you know which origin/extraction" or "anti-Polish milieus" and stuff like that are mentioned, the listeners know it's about Jews. The same goes for "Polish-language media" - not genuinely Polish (in "fact" as is assumed, Jewish, German) only writing in the Polish language... Apart from some ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazi, pagan/slavonic shauvinists, and soccer teams' supporters (actually not supporters, rahter hooligans) - all of them fringe/marginal groups, it is Radio Maryja that is a source of propaganda unfriendly towards not only Jews but all "others" (= not Polish Catholics). It's indeed a major problem for our image abroad but also from the home perspective.
    Fortunately, there is a growing number of pro-diverstiy events going on everywhere in Poland. From Warsaw, Łódź, Gdańsk, Kielce (sic!), Lublin through towns like Sokołów, Chmielnik. How many people are involved? Thousands for sure, maybe dozens of thousands are impacted. Does that outweigh the racist/xenophobic incidents? Most probably yes but what's good is less "marketable" and positively spectacular than the nasty stuff... Life...
    Sebastian Rejak, Warsaw, PL

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  29. Mr. Rejak, I am honored by your visit to my blog, and I thank you for your comments.

    It's so frustrating for me to read ... the worldview of Jews v. Poles is so, so wrong. It's not my lived reality at all, and I've been on the front lines for quite a while.

    I so wish someone would allow people like me who have a very different story to tell to reach people like those who listen to Radio Maryja. And I know that includes many good people. They are being sold a bill of goods, and they deserve to know the truth.

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  30. Three times I have posted what is meant by "A Pole is a Catholic". At least some of those who post on this forum still don't get it (or more likely, don't want to get it), so it is futile for me to repeat it yet a fourth time.

    You can have as many diversity clubs as you want, and you are welcome to them. Just leave Poland's traditional Catholic heritage alone, and don't try to impose your views and values against them.

    Good point by BR/MB on national sovereignty. How long before Poland becomes a full-fledged colony of Germany and other western European countries? The forbidding of Poland developing her natural resources (such as geothermal energy, as mentioned in RADIO MARYJA), usually under various environmentalist pretexts, smacks of outright colonialism.

    Sebastian Rejak "Anonymous" said:

    "It's [RADIO MARYJA} indeed a major problem for our image abroad but also from the home perspective."

    "Our image" based on what? The liberal media and its fundamental hostility to all things Christian in general and Catholic in particular? The western Europeans and their secularist, hedonistic, materialistic mindset?

    Veiled references in RADIO MARYJA to Jews and Germans? Well, if so, notwithstanding the fact that no nationality is a monolith, ask candidly which two nationalities are the most likely to produce writers who defame Poland and act against her interests? Is it the Innuits and the Polynesians?

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  31. "traditional Catholic heritage" is a myth, invented after WWI. Polish heritage involves also Judaism, paganism, Greek Catholicism and Orthodoxy as well as dozens of reformatist beliefs. Actual Catholics, (dominicantes rather than comunicantes) are already a minority in Poland (around 40%, less in larger cities), and that number will increase. While Poland had no bishop Casey, scandals involving the clergy will keep the people away from the church. I have the feeling that after the death of John Paul II, most people stay in the church just to have a christian (because, frankly, there is no alternative) wedding or funeral.


    "ask candidly which two nationalities are the most likely to produce writers who defame Poland and act against her interests? Is it the Innuits and the Polynesians?" - the Germans do not care much about Poland, and Jews are not a nationality (and Israel's relations with Poland couldn't have been better). If I had to say, I'd guess Russians and Belarussians (or maybe Czechs).

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  32. What?

    Non-Catholic elements in Poland do not negate Poland's Catholic heritage. Also, one does not have to be an actual churchgoer to be part of Poland's Catholic heritage.

    Other things mentioned--the scandals, etc., are irrelevant.

    "the Germans do not care much about Poland"

    What? Are you serious?

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  33. I forgot to mention things regarding Jakub on Jews.

    Jews not a nationality? Do not say that to a Zionist. A technicality in any case.

    As far as good Israeli-Polish relations are concerned, it does not necessarily mean that there has been any substantive change in the way that the Holocaust is being presented and the way that Poles are accused and blamed.

    ReplyDelete

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