Still Revulsed by Pérez-Reverte

Last January 16 I wrote about an article written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte in a Spanish newspaper. The article was supposed to be humorous, but it bombed. I was particularly annoyed by this paragraph (my translation),

But just take a look at this season. In order to arrive in Spain, the Kings must cross the Orient, as always. And that’s all f*ck*d up. They have to cross the Tigris and the Euphrates without having the American Marines liberate them from themselves, as the Marines have done with the rest of Iraq, and spraying them with bullets as they ride by. But then, if the Magi survive those sons of b*tch*s, they’ll still have to deal with other sons of b*tch*s a little nearer to us here; as they [the Magi] cross Israel they’ll deal with the sons of b*tch*s with side curls, and yarmulkes on their noggins, and rifles and Markava tanks protecting their backs; or the son of a b*tch who’s wearing a munitions vest (chaleco de cloratita note: the word cloratita is a new word to me, but in context, I take it to mean munitions vest) of the Allah Akbar variety, and so long suckers.

and posted my reaction,

Where do I start to describe why I find the above paragraph offensive? Do I start with the cultural note on the Iraqis being “saved from themselves”, as if murderous dictators were exclusive to that country? Do I look at the murderous Marines statement? Do I wonder about any depths to that anti-Americanism? How about that anti-Semitic, Judeophobic cliché, lifted right off the worst propaganda? In the interest of fairness, do I bother wonder what the average Palestinian would think of that portrayal? Do I show annoyance at the gratuitous mocking of a religious holiday? Or do I ponder the moral equivalency of it all?

Clearly I wasn’t the only one annoyed. Other bloggers wrote about it, among them Roger L. Simon, who wrote Resigning from “The Club Dumas” – More Racism from “Old Europe”. Aapparently APR’s agents and friends received a flood of emails and instant messages protesting APR’s attitude.

Pérez-Reverte has replied with El domingo que fui Goebbels The Sunday I was Goebbels (link via Barcepundit), and he’s sticking to his guns. He starts the article by saying,

Me telefonean mi agente norteamericano, Howard Morhaim, y Daniel Sherr, y algunos amigos argentinos, franceses y españoles, todos judíos hasta las cachas, para decirme qué pasa,

(my translation:) My American agents, Howard Morhaim and Daniel Sherr, and several Argentenian, French, and Spanish friends, all Jewish to the hilt, called, asking what’s the matter

Consciously or not, with this opening sentence APR starts by making sure we know

1. he has Jewish friends.

2. the people complaining are Jewish.

I don’t need to go into the bigotry shown by the statement “some of my friends/best friends are [fill ethnic/religious group]”.

As to the people complaining, Mr. Pérez-Reverte is cordially invited to read this blog. Like millions of people of Spanish origin, there’s a high probability that back in the Dark Ages or Middle Ages my ancestors were Jewish/Muslim/Visigoths/Roman/Celts, even when the last 5 generations or so of my family are/were Catholic (some have strayed to other faiths or agnosticism.) It is “I” who’s complaining. I’m not Jewish. I didn’t get the article through an email chain, or through instant messaging., I read it directly from the ABC/El Semanal website. The point I want to make clear is that I’m not blindly following anyone’s lead; I’m voicing my opinion.

No, not all the people complaining are Jewish.

In the new article Pérez-Reverte mentions that some TV commenter called APR Goebbles and Himler, for which he’s right to be outraged. The woman who did so on TV should lose her job.

On to the second paragraph,

Que el 2 de enero publiqué un artículo en el que, entre otras cosas, apuntaba que en Israel hay —se sobreentiende que entre otras— dos variedades que detesto: “Hijo de puta ultra con trenzas, kipá en el cogote, escopeta y tanque Merkava guardándole las espaldas, o hijo de puta con chaleco de cloratita en la variedad Alá Ajbar y hasta luego Lucas

(my translation:) That, on January 2, I published an article in which, among other things, I noted that in Israel there are – among others, it is understood – two varieties that I hate: “the sons of b*tch*s with side curls, and yarmulkes on their noggins, and rifles and Markava tanks protecting their backs; or the son of a b*tch who’s wearing a munitions vest of the Allah Akbar variety, and so long suckers.”

As I noted before, APR uses an anti-Semitic, Judeophobic cliché, lifted right off the worst propaganda. He’s doing the Palestinians no favors, either.

Está claro para quien no sea un malintencionado, un fanático o un imbécil, que la frase no sólo alude a judíos, sino también a palestinos, aunque los fariseos escandalizados omitan esto último.

Clearly, anyone that’s who doesn’t have bad intentions (i.e., has an agenda), a fanatic, or an imbecile, would know that the statement doesn’t only allude to Jews, but also to Palestinians, even when the scandalized Pharisees omit the latter group.

Were the articles written by a less capable writer, I might not pay so much attention to the choice of words, but, coming from APR, a writer that I used to admire, I can confidently assume that each word carries weight. So let’s look at that paragraph.

For as long as I’ve been an adult I’ve been very opinionated, but my intent in airing my opinions is to open towards a dialogue. That’s my only agenda — if any. To me, both articles show bigotry. Would it be unreasonable to believe that at least some of the people criticizing APR share my concern? Does that me us “fanatics”, or “imbeciles”?

Culturally, I grew up around Spanish men who assumed that their points of view should go unquestioned, and that those who disagreed by definition were fanatics or imbeciles (or worse yet, an American woman, such as myself?). Be that as it may, the fact is that, when criticized, APR has resorted to name calling.

Incidentally, in my prior post you can see that one of the reasons I found APR’s article offensive was his attitude towards Palestinians. Palestinians would be right to take umbrage. I also submit to APR the idea that any one of his readers doesn’t have to be exclusively pro-Palestinian/anti-Jewish or exclusively pro-Jewish/anti-Palestinian. One can grieve for both sides.

Finishing the paragraph, APR resorts, again, to anti-Semitic imagery by the use of the word Pharisees, who, after all, were thrown out of the Temple by Jesus himself.

APR continues,

Pero es que, además, ni siquiera utilizo la palabra judío, pues no me refiero a quienes pertenecen a esa religión y usan la dignísima kipá —el gorrito mosaico—, sino a un grupo concreto que vive en Israel. Ese “ultra” con “escopeta y tanque Merkava guardándole las espaldas” alude a los colonos armados, extremistas y fanáticos, que, criticados por sus propios compatriotas y enfrentados al gobierno israelí, al que acusan de blando —y ser más duro que Sharon tiene tela— agravan el conflicto con su cerril intransigencia.

But that also, I didn’t even use the word Jew, since I don’t refer to those who belong to that religion and wear the very worthy yarmulke, but also to a particular group living in Israel. That “ultra” with “and rifles and Markava tanks protecting their backs” refers to the armed, extremist, and fanatical colonists, who, when criticized by by their fellow countrymen and confronted by the Israeli government, which they regard as being soft – and it takes a lot to be tougher than Sharon – aggravate the conflict with their intransigence.

APR didn’t need to use the word Jew. He already had used, as I said before, the necessary imagery. As to the second sentence, José Cohen explained in his blog the wrongs of equating the State of Israel and Jewish orthodoxy. José also correctly pointed out that Pérez-Reverte does not pretend to be anti-semitic. He is just a product of a society.

The next paragraph dwells into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I won’t examine the details since I am not knowledgeable enough. Undoubtedly the Palestinians have suffered, and continue to suffer. Pérez-Reverte mentions how thirty years ago he helped pull Palestinian children from a a building that was bombed by the Israelis, which must have been the most heartbreaking of tasks. However, the paragraph’s final sentence stands out,

Respecto al holocausto y el antisemitismo, tampoco me toquen la flor. Esa atrocidad ocurrió hace más de medio siglo, la recordamos todos muy bien, y no justifica lo injustificable.

As for the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, don’t go there. That atrocity took place more than half a century ago, we all remember it very well, and it doesn’t justify the unjustifiable.

The Holocaust is not simply something isolated and remote that “took place more than half a century ago”, in some far-away place. There were dozens of concentration camps, right in the middle of Europe, within driving distance of major cities.

We don’t “all remember it very well” at all: it took all of 60 years for the UN to acknowledge the Holocaust this week.

Much of the current conflicts in the Middle East have roots in the Holocaust. As you can read in the following article, Nazi Roots of Palestinian Nationalism

The Mufti`s hatred of the West was matched only by his hatred of the Jews. It is not a coincidence that Germany suddenly abandoned the policy of expelling Jews and adopted far harsher methods a short time after the Mufti arrived in Germany. When Haj Amin came to Germany again, the Nazis decided to execute the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.

“The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry,” reported Eichmann`s deputy, Dieter Wisliceny. “[He had] played a role in the decision to exterminate the European Jews. The importance of this role must not be disregarded…. The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry.”

We do not know if al-Husseini played a major role in shaping the Final Solution. “There is, however,” wrote Joseph Schechtman, “abundant first-hand evidence of the part the Mufti played in making foolproof the ban on emigration (of Jews out of Germany).”

When the war ended, al-Husseini returned to the Middle East as a hero. On October 1, 1948, he was proclaimed the president of the government of All-Palestine. The government was fictional, however, because it did not control any land and was recognized by only a handful of Arab nations. In 1959 it was dispersed by its sponsor, Egypt.

By that time, however, another member of the al-Husseini clan was planning terror. Around the same time that the All-Palestine government was disbanded, a man by the name of Muhammad Abd al-Rahman ar-Rauf al-Qudwah al-Husaini – better known as Yasir Arafat – was busy organizing Fatah, which would go on to become the main faction of the PLO

Arthur Chrenkoff wrote on the fallacy of the Palestinian claims of genocide:

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe was 9.5 million. By 1950 it was only 3.5 million. The total Palestinian population in 1933 was somewhere around 950,000 (mostly Muslim, some Christian) – it is now around 4.5 million. Based on the same rate of growth, the Jewish population of Europe could be 45 million today. I’m sure the European Jews of the yesteryear would have wished that the Germans had waged the same sort of “war of extermination” on them that the Israelis are apparently waging on the Palestinians today.

Back to Pérez-Reverte:

De cualquier modo, el mecanismo no es nuevo. En los doce años que llevo tecleando esta página, ha pasado muchas veces, y volverá a pasar. Cuando de fanáticos e imbéciles se trata, da igual que uno mencione a israelíes, a palestinos o a taxistas. La diferencia es que, cuando digo que un taxista es un ladrón y un sinvergüenza y los taxistas protestan porque insulto al gremio del taxi, la cosa queda en esperpento. Lo otro tiene ribetes más sombríos, pues prueba que quienes viven de ser víctimas, rentabilizando cada ocasión, se frotan las manos ante supuestas conspiraciones, enemigos y odios, sean judeófobos, nacionalistófobos, o capullófobos. Aún así, lo peor no son los manipuladores que sacan partido de esa murga, sino los cantamañanas que, ingenuamente, se dejan llevar por ellos al huerto.

Anyway, this is nothing new. In the twelve years I’ve been writing this page, it’s happened many times, and will continue happening. When it comes to fanatics and imbeciles, it’s all the same if one’s talking about Israelis, Palestinians, or cab drivers. The difference is that, when I say that a cab driver’s a thief and a bastard and the cab drivers complain to the taxi drivers’ union, the thing ends there. The other stuff has darker edges, since it shows that those who live from playing the victim, cashing in on each occasion, rub their hands [with glee] at each prospective conspiracy, enemy or hate, whether it’s Judeo-phobe, nationalistc-phobe, or whatever-phobe. Even then, the worst are not the manipulators that gain from it, but the fools that naively go along and get taken for a ride.

We’re not talking about unionized cab drivers, and some of us simply write freely, out of our own volition, not cashing in, neither playing the victim nor victimizing anyone.

I have emailed a copy of this and my prior post to APR’s agent. I invite a dialogue from all visitors to this page, and from APR or his representatives, if they would honor us with their comments. But I urge you all to realize, that, when people are complaining about something they read it’s best to examine the point they try to make than what it is to dismiss their opinions as coming from “fools that naively go along and get taken for a ride”.

Reasonable people can disagree, and still maintain respect and civility. Otherwise, we are all fools.

One Response to “”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Good post. For your information “cloratita” is a type of explosive.