|Saramago receiving the
The paragraph, read out loud by one of the world’s foremost scholars of the Holocaust, chilled the audience.
“Contaminated by the monstrous and rooted ‘certitude’ that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God … the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner,” read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, at a Georgetown University conference Monday (Feb. 29) on anti-Semitism in Europe.
“Israel seizes hold of the terrible words of God in Deuteronomy: ‘Vengeance is mine, and I will be repaid,'” he continued. “Israel in short is a racist state by virtue of Judaism’s monstrous doctrines, racist not just against the Palestinians but against the entire world.”
Goldhagen stopped reading.
“Now, if I told you that these were the words of a Hamas leader, or any number of Middle Eastern political officials, or movement leaders, you wouldn’t be very surprised,” he said. “But these were the words of [Portuguese] Jose Saramago, the Nobel Prize-winning author, as published in 2002 in El Pais, the paper of record of Spain.”
This diatribe against the Jews, printed in one of Europe’s leading mainstream newspapers, came before the most recent spike in anti-Semitism across the continent, the subject of the daylong conference sponsored by Georgetown University’s new Center for Jewish Civilization.
Goldhagen, a former Harvard University professor, put the subject of the conference in a global context, contrasting the unlikelihood of another Holocaust in Europe to the frequent calls to violence against Jews in Arab lands. He calls anti-Semitism “the devil that never dies” — it morphs over the millennia, taking different forms in different cultures. One of anti-Semitism’s consistent traits, he said, is the idea that the world’s Jews — 0.2 percent of the world’s population — represent an evil threat.