More on Gaarder

Nevertheless, Gaarder’s essay is highly problematic. “We do not recognise the state of Israel” is not clarified in the way I attempted in my previous post, which invites the criticism slung at him by Andrew Sullivan and (no doubt) many others.

We do not believe in the notion of God’s chosen people. We laugh at this people’s fancies and weep at its misdeeds.

Crucially, his mockery of other people’s beliefs makes him look arrogant. Jews have a history of persecution we know all too well, and the exodus of the Torah is mirrored by countless diaspora in modern times. An attachment to (and a desire to live in) the Holy Land is genuine and heartfelt. In itself, it is not a reason for scorn.

We do not recognize the old Kingdom of David as a model for the 21st century map of the Middle East. The Jewish rabbi claimed two thousand years ago that the Kingdom of God is not a martial restoration of the Kingdom of David, but that the Kingdom of God is within us and among us. The Kingdom of God is compassion and forgiveness … Two thousand years have passed since the Jewish rabbi disarmed and humanized the old rhetoric of war. Even in his time, the first Zionist terrorists were operating … For two thousand years, we have rehearsed the syllabus of humanism, but Israel does not listen. It was not the Pharisee that helped the man who lay in the wayside, having fallen prey to robbers. It was a Samaritan

For most of the ‘two-thousand years’ in question, there was no ‘Israel,’ so he must be talking about The Jews. This looks like ‘classic’ anti-semitism: Jesus and the Christians had it right, while the Jews (that depraved bunch) had it wrong.

Finally:

Peace and free passage for the evacuating civilian population no longer protected by a state.

Gaarder does not consider the idea that the current Jewish residents of Israel might stay put after the anti-apartheid paradigm shift. Replacing one set of refugees with another solves nothing, it just reverses the problem. If he is saying that Jews are more suited to the refugee lifestyle than Palestinians, he is merely buying into the Old Testament tosh he refuted earlier.

15 thoughts on “More on Gaarder”

  1. First of all, please note that the man’s name is Gaarder, not Gaardner as you call him.

    I too have misgivings about parts of his rhetoric. Here is how I commented the essay on my blog, where the translation was originally posted:

    “I am quite ambivalent about this piece because of how it seems to lay the crimes of Israel at the feet of Judaism, implying that the Jewish religion has failed to absorb the humanism and universalism of Christianity. I think a more apt perspective is the following.

    The ideology of hardcore Zionism has evolved into a religion unto itself, bearing a striking resemblance to the pre-Talmudic Judaism of old. However, unlike the latter, it courts a tribal war god that really does exist, and which, unlike Yahweh, demands no sacrifice or expiation of its chosen people, the Jewish citizens of Israel. This God of Zionism is the world’s only superpower, the USA.

    Yet its blind patronage may not last forever. And without it, Israel will reap the whirlwind.”

    However, this particular sentence:

    “For two thousand years, we have rehearsed the syllabus of humanism, but Israel does not listen.”

    …might in a charitable reading be construed as: “…but Israel does not listen at the moment.”

    At best Gaarder certainly does not go out of his way to avoid misinterpreation, and the essay has drawn fierce criticism in Norway.

    Yet it also makes strong points, as you noted in the first post. I translated it partly on account of those and partly to show the extent to which Israel’s image is in tatters. Before the present war, I doubt that this essay would have seen print in a major newspaper.

    Thus, to the extent that one feels it reflects anti-Semitism, it also bears pointing out that Israel’s behavior qua “Jewish state” unfortunately is a fertile source of such. Of course, that’s a fact which Andy Sullivan & co would never dream of acknowledging.

  2. Gaarder does not consider the idea that the current Jewish residents of Israel might stay put after the anti-apartheid paradigm shift.

    Oh, Robert, of course he doesn’t. That’s because what he envisages is them all being physically thrown out. Made to leave. Banished. Etc. I agree with you that the “Jews out” shtick is not the only objectionable part of the article – the whole thing is appalling both in content and in style – but “Jews out” is what he is saying. Ought there not to be a way of resolving the Middle East crisis without threatening the Israeli Jews with expulsion if they don’t toe the line?

  3. Actually, I understand he was specifically writing in the style of a historical writer.

    Ought there not to be a way of resolving the Middle East crisis without threatening the Israeli Jews with expulsion if they don’t toe the line?

    In fact, surely the only way to resolve the Middle-East crisis is to guarantee that the Jews aren’t expelled.

  4. I submitted a comment here yesterday with some thoughts on the essay I have translated, but for whatever reason (and I can’t really think of any good one) it remains unpublished.

  5. So you did. They were marked as spam, but I’ve managed to recover them. They take rightful place at the top of the comments list.

    Thanks for the translation, by the way.

  6. You’re welcome, and thanks!

    After Aftenposten received over 1,000 letters to the editor in two days and many intellectuals and politicians have attacked the essay — though others have expressed support — Gaarder regrets having hurt the feelings of Jews and has scrapped his plan of distributing the piece abroad. Sadly he is also making self-pitying noises which confirm the impression that he isn’t the brightest bulb around. A glimpse of the debate is available here

  7. >>Gaarder regrets having hurt the feelings of Jews and has scrapped his plan of distributing the piece abroad.

    If I were Gaarder, I would worry more about why my outrage made me reach for for the two classic tropes of anti-semitism : jews as christ killers and jews as the chosen people.

    A norwegian muslim is planning to translate and distribute the op-ed in the middle east. For the sake of peace he says! Just what those people need – another quasi-religious rant against the jews.

  8. One of the things that Gaarder sneered at was our two silly stone tablets (paraphrasing). I am not a religious person, but I do know that if we all lived our lives according to the majority of the commandments supposedly written on those stones (leaving out worship and graven images), there wouldn’t be much wrong with the world.

    They don’t appear so silly when viewed in that light.

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