January 04, 2008

Academic Research or Preventive Political Tool to Balance Injustice?

While I am writing this, the spat between the German political scientist Matthias Küntzel and Andrew Bostom has acquired some notoriety. Atlas Shrugs offers an overview.

In his book "Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Antisemitism in the Middle East," Küntzel argues that contemporary Islamic antisemitism is largely due to the infamous Hitler-Mufti connection (I have posted about it, for example, here, here and here) and its ongoing influence in today' Islamic world. Bostom accuses him to fail to examine easily accessible sources which show that Islamic antisemitism, with Koranic and entirely non-Western motifs, was rampant throughout the 19th century in Egypt.

Reactions to Küntzel's failure to acknowledge those sources and Bostom's reasoning are ranging from "one scatches one's head" to "he (Küntzel) must be a masochist".

I have posted some of the thoughts below at the comment sections of several blogs, so I thought why not put it up here as well.

I am amazed at the fact that Küntzel’s reaction (or the lack thereof) causes so much amazement. If one takes his political affiliation into consideration, it's not all that amazing anymore.

Küntzel is a member of the “Anti-German” political left. The Anti-Germans appeared as a distinct political group in the early Nineties as a response to the racist attacks on foreigners and general chauvinism following German reunification. The basic creed of the Anti-Germans includes solidarity with Israel and American foreign policy and a critique of mainstream left anti-capitalist views, specifically the anti-globalisation movement, which are (rightfully) considered structurally antisemitic.

All Anti-German efforts are exclusively focused on fighting antisemitism. I don't have much of a head for political theory but let me try to explain it like that: Anti-Germans think that capital and labour have overcome their antagonism and are focusing their mutual efforts now on destroying the group historically identified with the “greedy side of capitalism” (”raffender Kapitalismus”) — i.e. the Jews. By destroying the Jews, capital and labour allow capitalism to survive. This implies that the working classes can’t be trusted anymore and the Anti-Germans close that gap by a bit of early Marxist theory, whereby first more capitalism is needed until the state of communism can be reached, specifically in underdeveloped (Arab-, Islamic-, fascist-) regimes. This, lo and behold, resolves the problem of “Western imperialism” as well: More of it is needed because antisemitism emerges primarily under conditions of stunted capitalist development and Western capitalism (i.e. the USA and their allies in their “war against terrorism”) thus deserves support.

My own take on that is, that, while a lot of the historical analysis of the Anti-Germans has merit, for example that antisemitism is an integral part of German (and European) culture, their conclusions are weird and speak of a self-hatred I find disturbing.

Understandably in a way, “Anti-Germanism” is an ideology with a lot of allure for those Germans who are decent enough to see antisemitism for the evil it is, yet who can not face giving up their leftist positions. However, it should not be overlooked that here we have a totally fixed world-view, almost bordering, I think, on the cult-like, and if Küntzel blames, in that spirit, the age-old Arab antisemitism on the Germans because achnowledging an equal share in the historic guilt would -- to him -- mean relativizing the German guilt (and gets acclaim for it), historians have a credibility problem.

The fact that Hitler and the Muslims were quite adequate in their genocidal Jew hatred, that maybe even the Mufti might have influenced Hitler more than vice versa, is quite well documented. This blog entry contains a lot of information and leads to further serious sources, which must have been, if this little blogger got it, available to Küntzel as well. But if one considers such facts as something that might be used to relativize the German guilt (and it might indeed), one might easily, consciously or subconsciously, overlook it and then historiography has lost any credibility as an academic field and can consider itself a preventive political tool to balance injustice.