Did Quentin Tarantino Promote Antisemitic Ideology?

January 24, 2013 1:48 am 10 comments

Quentin Tarantino. Photo: Wiki commons.

Antisemitism is a very flexible ideology. We know of Islamist antisemitism, the Iranian threat, Arab antisemitism, left-wing, right-wing and mainstream anti-Zionist European antisemitism. We also know of anti-Judaism—the hatred of circumcision and of ritual slaughter, for example.

A short while ago, American film director Spike Lee accused his colleague, film director, screen writer and actor Quentin Tarantino of distorting American history and slavery in his new film “Django Unchained.” For Lee the film is racist, and portrays slavery in a mild light. Lee says he will not watch the film.

Promoting his film in Berlin, Tarantino responded indirectly to Spike Lee by saying: “America is responsible for two Holocausts: for the destruction of native Americans and for the slavery of African Americans.”

Leading German daily, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, known for promoting the anti-Zionist antisemitism of Nobel Prize Laureate Günter Grass earlier this year, happily quoted Tarantino accusing America of “two Holocausts.” The Austrian actor Christoph Waltz who appeared in Tarantino’s latest film was just awarded a Golden Globe for his role in Django Unchained and Waltz is not known as a critic of Holocaust distortion Tarantino-style.

Accusing America of genocide is among the best known anti-American tropes worldwide. In Germany (FRG), there was a remarkable increase in this trope right after the screening of the TV series “Holocaust” in January, 1979. Blaming the West and America for another genocide or Holocaust was most welcome by many Germans. Psychoanalytic theory calls this a projection of guilt.

As we know, the Holocaust was an unprecedented crime. Many historians of the Holocaust emphasize the unprecedented character of it, including historian and Jewish studies scholar Steven T.  Katz from Boston University.

The Holocaust is unique. Never before was there the intent and the policy to kill an entire people. Germans wanted to kill the Jews – and they destroyed European Jewry by killing six million Jews. For the first time in history, gas chambers were part of an industry of destruction.

The German railway system was used for the deportation of Jews from far away countries like Greece. Since the late 19th century in particular (in fact, even before), Germans developed a specific form of German antisemitism aimed at the destruction of Jews. Jews were seen as the “eternal Jews,” as working on a world conspiracy, as being behind capitalism (“Mammon,” the supposedly Jewish god of money!) and of communism, liberalism, modernity, urban cities, free forms of sexuality and the like.

The Russian forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, first distributed around 1905, became crucial to Hitler’s antisemitic ideology, too. Since the Middle Ages, blood Libels have been a typical Christian tool and, since 1840 and the Damascus Affair, an increasingly Christian Arab, as well as Muslim and Islamist tool to spread Jew-hatred. Today Jews are accused of killing innocent Christian or Muslim children for religious purposes.

All these genocidal features are missing when we look at colonialism, slavery, and racism. Jews were seen as superior, not as inferior like Native Americans, Blacks, or slaves. Jews were seen as a dangerous force behind all kinds of evil. Africans were subject to horrible crimes in modern times, but those crimes were far from genocide. The Arab-Islamic slave trade and the European-American slave trade used Africans as a cheap labor. Exploitation was the reason behind slavery and racism, and the allegedly superior Arabs or Whites were behind it.

On the other hand, exploitation was neither the reason nor the result of the Holocaust. The (German) will to destroy Jewry was behind the Shoah. Destruction ruled, not exploitation or racist rule over a group of people. German did not just want to rule over Jews, they wanted to kill them and they did kill them.

Not so in slavery, colonialism, or racism. The history of Native Americans was also horrible, but far from genocide. There was never the intention of European settlers to kill the entire native population. Rather, disease caused much of the destruction of the native peoples. Historian, theorist and critic of capitalism, Karl Marx, called this “primitive accumulation.” Primitive accumulation is based on violence, direct violence and murder. The Holocaust, though, is completely distinct from that. There was no cui bono in the Shoah.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung mentions historian David Stannard as a “serious” source to back Tarantino’s claim about America having committed Holocausts. However, Stannard is not a serious historian. I deal with him in my new book, Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon. Holocaust Trivialization – Islamism – Post-colonial and Cosmopolitian anti-Zionism. Stannard promotes the anti-American and antisemitic Holocaust-distorting trope of the Holocaust of native Americans in the US.

Stannard is also a friend of author and agitator Ward Churchill, infamous for framing the entire history of the US as an ongoing genocide or “Holocaust” (since 1492) and for referring to the 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns.” (The two notorious studies from these two ‘historians’ are David E. Stannard (1992): American holocaust: Columbus and the conquest of the New World, New York: Oxford University Press and Ward Churchill (1997): A Little Matter of Genocide. Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, San Francisco: City Lights Books.)

American journalist and columnist for the German weekly Die Zeit, Tuvia Tenenbom, reported in his book I Sleep in Hitler’s Room (which became a German bestseller, Allein unter Deutschen) about traveling to Germany and finding antisemitism. He meets the gardener of a lovely and very trendy restaurant vis-à-vis the house of the Wannsee-Conference in Berlin. When Tenenbom asked about the strange people who love to marry and to have lunches at the House Sanssouci Restaurant, the gardener responded: “And you killed the Indians!”

Tarantino promotes the very same antisemitic ideology. He distorts the Holocaust by framing American history as even worse than German history. Two holocausts for the US, and just one for Germany in this antisemitic, though very fashionable view.

Hurting Jewish Holocaust survivors, their relatives, and all other people who remember the worst crime of mankind ever, is the result, if not the intent, of Quentin Tarantino’s words. He praises the Germans for their kind of Holocaust remembrance while accusing America of being unable and unwilling to confront their own history.

There was and there is racism in the US, yes, even after the end of slavery and segregation. This has to be confronted on a daily basis. But there were not two holocausts in American history. Neither Native Americans nor African Americans were killed intentionally on a genocidal level. Rather, exploitation, the spread of diseases, and European-American chauvinism and racism were prevalent.

The obsession to downplay, obfuscate, distort and even universalize the Holocaust has to stop. Quentin Tarantino is just another candidate, one of the first in 2013, for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Top Ten Antisemitic/anti-Israel Slurs. Holocaust distortion and Holocaust universalization are very widespread and serious forms of antisemitism.

Those who forget or distort the past won’t support the Jewish state of Israel in the future. Quentin Tarantino is not a ground-breaker in this regard; he merely echoes the German and European (as well as American) anti-Americanism and antisemitism of the cultural elite.

Dr. Clemens Heni is the author of Antisemitism: A Specific Phenomenon. Holocaust Trivialization – Islamism – Post-colonial and cosmopolitan anti-Zionism

10 Comments

  • Why would a super power country like USA ally itself so closely with a foreign COUNTRY as small and insignificant as Israel? And secondly, why does every American president kiss the wailing wall? Yet no Israeli president has ever kissed the crucifix or Holy Catholic Bible.
    I think Tarantino makes awesome propaganda movies. We should have the same Tarantinoesque type movies released in North America with a Muslim perspective.
    I wonder how the Jews would react to seeing an Arab historical revisionist fantasy movie where all the Jews in Palestine get wiped out by a Muslim-Apache hit squad.
    Only instead of collecting scalps, they collect bloody yamakkas. Hateful movies breed hateful audiences. Tarantino is playing with his toy soldiers.

  • The essay is asking if Tarantino promotes anti-Semitism. Dr. Heni takes umbrage to Tarantino stepping into an arena where he feels Tarantino being a non-Jew shouldn’t–the same reason Spike Lee resents black issues being brought forth by someone who isn’t black. He accuses Tarantino of minimizing the horror of slavery. Heni accuses Tarantino of minimizing the horror of the holocaust, by bandying about terms that shouldn’t be. I think they’re both being ridiculous–how can one not minimize either scenario? Isn’t it a case of one having had to be there to get the full impact?

    One has to ask though, if Spike Lee had made Django, how far would he have gotten with trying to promote it without being ridiculed and denigrated for being anti-white and worse?

    What if Adam Sandler had made Inglorious Bastards? What if he had used an Israel right wing rapper(whose name escapes me right now) instead of those peace seeking dudes of Hadag Nachash? I’d bet that’s a movie that we’d never have heard of.

    So maybe Tarantino is a bit of a dolt who spends way too much time in the L.A. club scene getting sloshed, maybe he needs some enlightenment and a good sponsor, but he opens up the dialogue, does he not?

    And to my mind is there anything deadlier than silence?

  • Hysterical article. Not convincing. Tarantino is great artist, definetily not an antisemite.
    Indian population was of course exterminated by white americans on the west and spaniards on the south of continent, same story with aboriginals of Australia and New Zealand.

  • Tell it to his jewish wife

  • Personally to allude that QuentinTarantino will have anything to do with anti-Semitism is a total aberration. The man is fighter against injustices and has proven many times over by his body of work where he stands personally. I find these subjective allegations to be like blasphemy and repugnant. Its pure sensationalism of the worst taste.
    The man that directed Inglorious bastard is a hero not a “villain. “
    I hope a made my point clear to every one.!!!!!

  • Germany had two holocausts. The prototype for the Holocaust was not the Armenian Genocide but the Herero genocide in German Southwest Africa.

  • T.E. Barnes Jr.

    While I agree that Tarantino’s comments are unfounded, the author of this article needs to re-read American history. Some of the diseases that killed the Native Americans were in fact purposefully introduced by white settlers. Just because there was not the modernity of WWII Germany available to white settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries does not mean there was not some level of genocide ongoing. Additionally, I’m sure if the term ‘Holocaust’ were in use at that time, and there were people who cared, it would have been used to describe those events. I disagree with Tarantino about the use of the word for black slaves, as they were never subjected to such acts in a comprehensive, national-level effort. However, for some reason many Zionists, such as the author, seem to ONLY remember the 6 million Jews who died. What about the 6 million ‘untermenschen,’ or inferiors, murdered by the Nazis? And just as the author claims disease and other reasons for the deaths of Native Americans do not constitute a Holocaust, does that also mean the millions of Jews who suffered from diseases, malnutrition, and simple old age in Nazi concentration camps do not count as victims? One way or the other, you can’t have it both ways.

  • Richard Weissman

    Did you know that Christoph Walz is 100% Jewish? So this article is not too good. Just because some person uses the word holocaust improperly you wrote an article linking that person to antisemitism. Kind of tastless.

    • Agree. Pointless and tasteless. However Waltz is not 100% Jewish, he is Jewish. There is no Jewish percentage, only proselytes and Jews.

  • The judgemental proselyte who wrote the article should ask the survivors: The official term is Shoah, not Holocaust; Therefore Tarantino is not downsizing anything. The term Holocaust was never used in the post-war Nuremberg trials and it’s not specific, despite its common usage. “Holocaust was adopted as a translation of Shoah—a Hebrew word connoting catastrophe, calamity, disaster, and destruction[1]—which was used in 1940 in Jerusalem in a booklet called Sho’at Yehudei Polin, and translated as The Holocaust of the Jews of Poland. Shoah had earlier been used in the context of the Nazis as a translation of catastrophe; for example, in 1934, Chaim Weizmann told the Zionist Action Committee that Hitler’s rise to power was an “unvorhergesehene Katastrophe, etwa ein neuer Weltkrieg” (“an unforeseen catastrophe, perhaps even a new world war”); the Hebrew press translated Katastrophe as Shoah.[2] In the spring of 1942, the Jerusalem historian BenZion Dinur (Dinaburg) used Shoah in a book published by the United Aid Committee for the Jews in Poland to describe the extermination of Europe’s Jews, calling it a “catastrophe” that symbolized the unique situation of the Jewish people.[1][3] The word Shoah was chosen in Israel to describe the Holocaust, the term institutionalized by the Knesset on April 12, 1951, when it established Yom Ha-Shoah Ve Mered Ha-Getaot, the national day of remembrance.”
    1 Holocaust, Yad Vashem
    2 Setbon, Jessica. “Who Beat My Father? Issues of Terminology and Translation in Teaching the Holocaust”, workshop from a May 2006 conference; see Yad Vashem website.
    3 “Holocaust—Definition”, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Vol. II, MacMillan.

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