Friday, September 11, 2009


[Update: clarification.]
The reaction of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to concerns about its military advisor Marc Garlasco’s keen interest in Nazi German WW2 memorabilia is a shocking indicator of the failure of many NGOs to decently engage with Jews on antisemitism and related issues.
I'm not as sure I could be as generous as Mark Gardner is toward someone who goes goes around online as Flak88.

No, it's not fair to write HRW88 above. In neo-Nazi circles, the 88 stands for "Heil Hitler," but HRW is not a neo-Nazi organization. Still, if anyone would have a problem with me daring to write that, then that's how serious it is that HRW relies on Flak88 as an advisor. Gardner writes:
When it comes to Nazism, you either contribute to the struggle against it, or you do not. Human Rights Watch insist that their expert, Marc Garlasco, is not a Nazi, and is not an antisemite. They relate how in the foreword of his book he says to his daughters that “the war was horrible and cruel, that Germany lost and for that we should be thankful.”

In all of these claims, HRW may well be correct. They know Garlasco well. But, if Garlasco wants to immunise his daughter (and all our children) from Nazism, then fetishising Nazi medals for public consumption is a stupid way of going about it. You do not fight Nazism by helping to promote the marketplace for Nazi medals and trinkets and accoutrements. You do not fight Nazism by presenting its soldiers as brave, handsome, fresh faced youths – and you most certainly do not fight Nazism by normalising the wearing of Nazi-themed sweatshirts as Marc Garlasco does in this picture:
But I find it impossible to believe that anyone who goes by the name Flak88 is neither a Nazi nor antisemite, and can't fathom Gardner's generosity in saying "HRW may well be correct." The 88 is not a random number.

Of course, for some people, they'd be flabergasted and ask why someone even in the orbit of Nazis would work for a human rights organization. Wouldn't neo-Nazis be opposed to everything HRW does? As comes about in this discussion, antisemitism blames Jews for wars, so it is easy for antisemites to convince themselves they are the only ones interested in peace. Anyone who disagrees is seen as a warmonger. That discussion springs from an article in which Pat Buchanan argues that Hitler really wanted peace. Buchanan's fuller view is that American Jews pushed for war and thereby caused the Holocaust. But, of course, Hitler really was the warmonger we all know him to be, and, however he protests, Buchanan is only a pseudo-peacenik. But antisemitism can create those kinds of inversions. Or, some may remember Arun Gandhi's claim that:
We have created a culture of violence (Israel and the Jews are the biggest players) and that Culture of Violence is eventually going to destroy humanity.
It should not be shocking that an antisemite, or even a neo-Nazi, would be sincerely interested in human rights. The core of antisemitism is that powerful Jews are oppressing the people, so why not a human rights organization?

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