Another Tack: The ghost of Rosa Luxemburg

Prima facie there should be nowhere more unlikely for communist icon Rosa Luxemburg’s ghost to haunt than Israel. For inveterate ideological internationalists like Rosa, Zionism was anathema.

Though rifle-butted to death in 1919 by German nationalists and reviled as a Jew (with her revolutionary doctrines falsely ascribed to all Jews), Rosa’s antipathy to Jewish causes was a near-boastful expression of alienation from her own Jewish roots.

In 1917 she wrote her friend Mathilde Wurm a harsh response to the latter’s concern about pogroms. “I have no room in my heart for Jewish suffering,” Rosa declared outright. “Why do you pester me with Jewish troubles? I feel closer to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations of Putumayo or the Negroes in Africa… I have no separate corner in my heart for the ghetto.”

Rosa’s indifference to her own people arose from the intuition that cutting the cords of disagreeable Jewish connections eases acceptance beyond the ghetto. This was Rosa’s ticket to citizen-of-the-world credentials, even if only within the context of her Marxist milieu, packed paradoxically with her own breed of estranged Jews.

NO LESS paradoxically, her professed lack of solidarity with fellow Jews flourishes remarkably in the Jewish state – the creation of the very Zionist movement to which Rosa was the antithesis. Logically, Israel ought to be the last place in which to expect Jewish self-loathing. After all, Zionism regarded itself as the remedy to Rosa-variety complexes.

But the Zionist cure is perhaps of limited effectiveness against the collective mental aberrations which 2,000 years of exile, helplessness and dependence on the whims of assorted potentates and tyrants inculcated in downtrodden Jews. Rosa’s keenness to bask in the warmth of socialist approval still abounds among all too many Israelis. For them, too, distancing themselves from the inherent interests of the Jewish people purchases a voucher for universalist endorsement.

The scathing op-ed which local novelist A.B. Yehoshua chose to scribble for the Italian leftist La Stampa (of all newspapers) is but one case in point. His contribution to the onslaught against Israel in EU territory is bound to reinforce Yehoshua’s claim to the status of a recognized and esteemed enlightened one, even if to his misfortune he’s saddled with an Israeli identity.

TO EARN accolades overseas (and perhaps even a Nobel Prize in the fullness of time), Boolie, as his groupies nickname him, exhorted the American president to recall his ambassador from Israel “for an indefinite period, until all outposts are evacuated. I can guarantee that had Bush acted thus, Israel would have promptly dismantled the outposts and the US administration would thereby have cemented the trust of Israelis and Palestinians in the peace process.”

He then proceeded to warn the international community against Israeli deception. By focusing attention only on the outposts, Israel “legitimizes the status of the settlements in which 250,000 Israelis reside.”

Boolie wants them all evicted.

But that’s not all. Chiming in with Mearsheimer and Walt, he too lambastes America’s “Jewish lobby,” for “having become a powerful tool of influence on Israel’s behalf within the US administration.”

THIS ISN’T the first time Yehoshua went out of his way to leave no doubt among EU audiences that he shouldn’t be pigeonholed with other Israelis, but regarded as a preferred progressive specimen, one who avidly beats his compatriots’ breasts and censures their villainy. Unlike the “bad Jews,” against whom Europe still seethes – whether crudely or in more genteel guises – Yehoshua will be counted as a “good Jew.”

To be fair, the advice he dispenses to Washington on how to tame the disobedient Israeli cur is still a notch below the Haaretz editor’s entreaties that the US “rape Israel.” The sentiment, however, is identical and leaves Yehoshua viably in the running for the distinction of “I am not as awful as the rest of my countrymen.”

But it’s not an easy arena to compete in. After Avrum Burg compared Israel to Nazi Germany and acquired a French passport, all other contenders for Europe’s “Pet Jew” title must try lots harder.

Next conductor Daniel Barenboim raised the bar to excruciating heights when he obtained “Palestinian citizenship.” He was already a tough act to follow, after rebuffing an Army Radio interviewer because of her offensive Israeli uniform. Previously he provoked Israeli concert-goers by breaking his word and imposing upon them the music of Hitler’s muse and super-monster in his own right, Richard Wagner (one of the prime progenitors, disseminators and financiers of modern racial Judeophobia, replete with agitation to physically annihilate Jews).

IT’S DIFFICULT not to pity poor Boolie. Each day presents new challenges in a crowded field that includes numerous high-profile, highbrow Israelis lusting after approbation from the foreigners who count. It’s no mean feat to outshine the suave and sophisticated Amos Oz (a perennial Nobel candidate).

And if all that’s not enough, then snapping at Yehoshua’s heels are all those Israeli academics and post-modern historians – many expatriates who luxuriate in generous financial backing and enjoy immunity from the anti-Israeli boycotts they themselves help orchestrate.

They no longer yammer against mere occupation, but without equivocation protest the existence of a Jewish state altogether. They pose as the embodiments of humane contrition and hector as the voices of conscience. They do a mea culpa in our name and at our expense. Upstaging them is indeed next to impossible.

But Boolie is more dangerous than those who had totally banished themselves from our pale. He and his sort continue to bend gullible minds within the camp. They cheered the retreats from Lebanon and Gaza. They long for the same along Israel’s super-vulnerable eastern flank. They bear no small share of the blame for the rockets that slammed into the North and which still unrelentingly explode in the western Negev.

Yet the Boolies in our midst aren’t held accountable. Their own cronies after all, who derive clout and celebrity by associating with trendy literati, control the media and mold popular opinion. They too have no room in their hearts for Jewish suffering. Rosa’s ghost walks among them. They idolize it and bow to its diktats.

3 thoughts on “Another Tack: The ghost of Rosa Luxemburg

  1. As a bit of a Rosa fan, I thought I’d give a fuller and more correct version of the quote:

    “Why do you come with your particular Jewish sorrows? I feel equally close to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations in Putumayo, or to the Negroes in Africa with whose bodies the Europeans are playing catch-ball… I have not a separate corner in my heart for the ghetto: I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are cloud and birds and human tears.” Come to me, not pester; equally close, not closer. A nice piece of prose too.

    Gustavo Perednik correctly comments: With hindsight, those Jews of the 1916 ghetto would have been happy to exchange their fate with the Putumayo workmen and Black Africans in Africa. As Irving Howe put it “even in the warmest of hearts, there is a cold spot for the Jews.” http://www.zionism-israel.com/his/judeophobia10.htm The full letter (to her friend Mathilde Wurm) is on p.261 here http://tinyurl.com/y2gmqhr

  2. Thanks for correcting the borderline-libelous misquote in the original post. I think Howe’s observation may still be correct for many people, but it was never true of Rosa Luxemburg. As her whole life (and indeed her letter to Wurz) proves, she felt compassion for all of suffering humanity.

  3. Pingback: Why Be Anything? Rosh Hashana 5775 | Shalom from Rabbi Chalom

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