Gretta Duisenberg, Mark Steyn, & Anti-Racism
Although a title to an article normally suggests that the author claims, reliably or not, some expertise in the subject, I know next to nothing about Gretta Duisenberg. I haven’t consulted her website, which is presumably in Dutch, and don’t know whether Gretta is smart or deranged. I first learned about her from a recent Mark Steyn column, and several minutes later acquired the bulk of my limited knowledge from her brief Wikipedia entry.
Here is the opening paragraph of the relevant Wikipedia article, which appears to have been edited by a non-English speaker:
Gretta Duisenberg (born 1942) is a Dutch political activist and strong supporter of the Palestinians. She is currently facing criminal charges associated with racist content on her pro-Palestinian website. Although branded by some as a radical with irrational anti-Israeli sympathies, some see her as the contra-voice who simply stands up for the Palestinians by explaining about the unbalances in the conflict. She is the widow of Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) politician Wim Duisenberg who was also the first president of the European Central Bank.
Here is the brief remark by Mark Steyn, a neo-conservative author and columnist, that provoked my limited interest in Duisenberg’s legal travails:
For over a decade, I have been writing about the metastasizing Jew-hate in Europe, and I have noted, aside from the physical attacks, the casual acceptance of anti-Jewish slurs at the highest levels in Continental society. But I find, say, the Holocaust gags favored by Gretta Duiseberg [sic], the wife of the then head of the European Central Bank, far less disturbing than the absurd pretzel-twist logic deployed by the Obama Administration to deny reality.
The denial of reality that Steyn has in mind concerns Amedy Coulibaly’s killing of Jews at a kosher market in Paris. Non-Muslim defenders of Islam, a category of liberal that quite possibly includes every single inhabitant of the White House, hope to remove from the crime the obvious implication that the jihadist killer may have harbored some racial or religious animus toward his victims, all of whom were Jews. Steyn finds that objectionable.
I agree with Steyn. Muslims, on the whole, do not like Jews. The Koran and the life of Mohammed both teach Muslims to dislike Jews, and Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian Arabs, a largely but not exclusively Muslim population, only confirms their religious biases. That Muslim terrorists often state their reasons for attacking Jews lends even greater clarity to what is already a remarkably uncomplicated issue. Steyn is therefore correct to complain of “the absurd pretzel-twist logic” by which the Obama administration pretends that when Muslims in France shoot Jews, they don’t intend to shoot Jews. They really mean only to kill native French, which is, according to this implausible version of jihadist motives, unfortunate but less troubling, given the differing value Western governments assign to the lives of the two groups. The motive for this pretzel-twist logic arises from the need to prevent Euro-Americans and Whites elsewhere, most of them philo-Semites, from drawing dangerous conclusions from Muslim violence and general misbehavior both in Europe and on this continent.
Anti-Semitism is a terrible plague, and Muslims are especially infected with it. Therefore Muslims, if this line of reasoning is taken to its dangerously logical conclusion, are an especially bad set of immigrants to allow into Western nations. You shouldn’t, whether you are a Jew or a philo-Semite, let them into your country if you are concerned about the growth of anti-Semitism. In addition to harming actual members of the nation, they might also harm Jews, as the recent terrorist outbreak of diversity in Copenhagen illustrates. If you favor massive non-White immigration, as the Obama administration and almost every other Western government does, Muslim anti-Semitism is a subject you would prefer to ignore and prefer that others ignore as well. Hence the need for absurd pretzel-twist logic, which is anti-racialist in its intent, though Steyn may suspect sinister anti-Jewish motives.
In the current political climate one of the best arguments you could make in public against Muslim immigration is not that it injures the nations that permit it — which could be a criminal speech offense in some jurisdictions and would be a dangerous piece of “racism” almost everywhere — but that it might disturb Jews and increase anti-Semitism. The Obama administration hopes to minimize the danger of that argument, and clearly hopes as well to discourage American Jewry, the major architects and proponents of American open-borders immigration, from noticing the threat that Muslim immigration into the United States poses to their tranquility.
It is also abundantly clear, pace Steyn, that Gretta Duisenberg, despite her late husband’s accomplishments, does not occupy the highest levels of continental society. I know that as a certain fact, although I am ignorant of the details of her life, because she is currently facing fines or perhaps time in prison for political opinions expressed on her website. Even if Gretta is a millionaire many times over and a regular dinner companion of every banker in Holland, she does not occupy the highest levels of Dutch society. The people who are able to use hate-speech laws to threaten her with punishment do, on the other hand, occupy the highest levels, because they have the power to deny a citizen of a free country her right to agitate peacefully for the cause of her choice. Duisenberg plainly does not possess such power, witness her current legal predicament.
Gretta Duisenberg’s Holocaust gag, which disturbs Mark Steyn and initially brought her to the attention of speech regulators in the Netherlands, was to defend Palestinians by invoking the Jewish Holocaust. I again quote from her Wikipedia entry:
Gretta Duisenberg came under fire when she announced [in a radio interview] her intention of collecting six million signatures as part of her campaign to draw attention to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. She was asked how many signatures she’d been able to gather for the petition against the occupation and replied that 6,000 supporters had signed so far. And how many signatures would you like to collect, she was asked. Duisenberg hesitated for a moment and then said, ‘Six million’. Critics stated that the figure was clearly an allusion to the number of Jewish victims of World War II. Duisenberg denies any link to the Holocaust, and stated that she just mentioned a multiple of the 6,000 they had already collected.
Let’s stipulate that Gretta Duisenberg is lying, which seems likely, and that she really did mean to draw attention to the Holocaust. We have to ask why she would “[come] under fire” for referring to the modern West’s inerrant moral touchstone in order to support her pro-Palestinian case. At worst she was saying that Jews in Israel today should not commit crimes against Arabs similar in nature to the crimes that Germans committed against Jews in the 1940s. That would be the maximum in racial hatred any rational observer could possibly extract from her two-word reply to an interviewer’s question.
Duisenberg’s motives were anti-racist, which should mean virtuous. She does not doubt that the Jewish Holocaust is indeed a massive moral monument, which is why she alluded to it. She was not trying to deny or minimize the Holocaust, which would be a serious crime throughout most of Europe. She was satisfied with the anti-racialist lessons it teaches and hoped they could be enlisted in the cause of the Palestinians, her preferred species of non-White victim. The chances that she is a secret supporter of Geert Wilders, and hence in her private life a rightist thought-criminal, are vanishingly small, especially since Wilders is a strong supporter of Israel and she is not. Almost by definition a principled anti-racist, if the term means anything, should also be an anti-Zionist. That so many anti-racists are not in fact anti-Zionist is only an indication that many anti-racists lack principles or fear Jews. But Gretta Duisenberg is principled in her anti-racism, and now she finds herself in trouble.
In her dangerous two-word answer, Duisenberg was relying, indirectly, on what I have called elsewhere the “soft lessons” of the Holocaust, the deceptively attractive lessons of human brotherhood that make the Holocaust an effective instrument for promoting multiculturalism in majority-White nations. You study the Holocaust carefully, as we are all taught to do, and you achieve thereby empathy for the plight of marginalized populations. The more you study it, the deeper that empathy becomes, and hopefully your empathy, combined with the growing empathy of others, will gradually transform the world around you. Under the educational guidance of the Holocaust it would, for example, be wrong for Americans or Greeks or Australians to prevent non-Whites from illegally entering their respective nations, because that’s the sort of bad thing Hitler would have done on behalf of the people he governed. It is true that Thomas Jefferson, if faced with a similar problem, would have done the same bad thing on behalf of the people he once governed, but that, on the best interpretation, is only because Jefferson never had the opportunity to study the Holocaust, which has enlarged our moral horizons. On the worst interpretation it would suggest that Jefferson might have been afflicted with the same mental illness (“racism”) that plagued Hitler and made Holocaust lessons so crucial in the first place.
That’s the sort of lesson you learn from studying the Holocaust and from ruminating on its real-world implications, whether those implications apply to the present or the past. From a Jewish perspective such lessons are useful for non-Jews to learn. They are not so useful if non-Jews, in the name of anti-racism, apply the same lessons to Israel while invoking the Holocaust. Expanding empathy for the Other is fine, but only if it injures majority-White nations. It is not fine, and can even be criminally “racist,” if it stigmatizes Israeli Jews, as White South Africans were once stigmatized, and if it suggests that their illegal occupation of the West Bank and their Jews-only immigration policy may just possibly be inconsistent with the Holocaust’s gentler teachings about human brotherhood. If you are a Zionist trying to defend nazi-like behavior in Israel, the Holocaust is a valuable but sometimes unreliable weapon, because it can also be deployed by your enemies. At times it almost looks as though it was assembled to benefit them. Hence the frequency with which Israeli Jews find themselves called “nazis” by Muslims and their supporters, who have nothing but admiration for the Holocaust’s broad anti-racialist teachings and see no reason why they shouldn’t assist their cause.
All cultures are controlled, in varying degrees, by a set of related ideas. In modern Western civilization the dominant set of ideas is anti-racism. Departures from anti-racism are reprehensible or even criminal, just as departures from religious doctrines are reprehensible or criminal in religiously based societies. Since the discourses of anti-racism are universalist, there should theoretically be no exceptions. Jews cannot openly claim an exemption merely because they have done such yeoman service in constructing the set of ideas that constitute anti-racism.
Tension arises inevitably within a society governed by anti-racism when two privileged minority groups come into conflict. The larger culture must then respond and choose sides, and the normal response is to align with the more powerful of the contending minorities, especially since the party with greater power is more capable of propagating its own interpretation of what anti-racism and multiculturalism prescribe. In practice that usually means that Jews win and Muslims, along with their advocates, lose. In the future, as Muslim populations grow and more Muslims master the nuances of anti-racism, that will likely change, but at the present moment Duisenberg has taken the side that, in its conflicts with Jews, loses more often than it wins.
Neither side is, needless to say, challenging the dominant discourse. This debate occurs entirely within the system, each side relying for its ammunition on the same set of ideas and on the authoritative teachings of the same moral monument. Duisenberg’s critics, those who first put her “under fire” for briefly alluding to the Jewish Holocaust in an impermissible context, are lying. They know she is not guilty of “racism” and not trying to incite pogroms. She is a devoted anti-racist who has chosen to advocate on behalf of what is for the moment the weaker side, brown-skinned Arabs in Palestine and their Muslim supporters in the Netherlands. Her type is not common, but not rare either. Rachel Corrie was another example.
To American eyes the fact that these debates can end up in court, with the loser assessed a fine or carted off to jail as though some real crime had occurred, seems strange. But under a regime of speech regulation a radio interview can in fact be a crime scene, just as the blood-stained floor of a murder investigation is a crime scene. On radio and television words come out of a speaker’s mouth, and it is words that hate-speech regulation regulates and criminalizes. Steyn himself, who has the neocon audacity to cite Duisenberg as a minor symptom of “metastasizing Jew-hate in Europe,” found himself, not long ago, in a Canadian hate-speech court where truth is explicitly no defense. His anti-Muslim articles in a popular magazine had become potential crime scenes and his words the crime’s alleged weapons, as though they were guns or knives. His words were eventually declared innocent of crime, only because in Canada Steyn’s preferred side in the debate between Jews and Muslims is at present more powerful than its adversary.
Of course people of European descent, who find ourselves disempowered by anti-racism and threatened by its penalties, should, to use Michael Polignano’s phrase, take our own side and abolish the system of ideas that currently misgoverns us. Jews and Muslims would then be free to conduct their debates elsewhere, and political disagreements would no longer be settled by determining who is wickedly “racist” and who isn’t.