The first book by Norman Berdichevsky that I read was The Danish-German Border Dispute, a fascinating history of Denmark’s relationship with Germany, and the politics of the Danish minority now resident in Schleswig. The arcana of history always interest me, and I read the book closely before passing it on to one of my Danish friends.
Dr. Berdichevsky writes on a variety of other topics. He has just published The Left Is Seldom Right, an analysis of the current political situation in the United States and the rest of the West. Early next month he will publish another book about Danish history and culture.
I had the good fortune to read several chapters of The Left Is Seldom Right in advance of publication, and recommend it strongly to our readers.
Earlier today Dr. Berdichevsky sent us the following account of the writing of these two books, and their relevance to the current crisis of the West:
Why I Wrote These Two Books
by Norman Berdichevsky
A few days ago, I returned from a trip to Denmark where I visited my son and his family. I also made the trip to publicize my new book, An Introduction to Danish Culture (McFarland Publishing) and was interviewed by Tim Anderson of MyDanishtv.com, a weekly internet video program on different aspects of Life in Denmark. The 10 minute interview can be viewed on their website in early June. The book on Denmark will be available on July 5th. just a month after the publication here in the U.S. on June 10th by the New English Review Press of The Left Is Seldom Right.
Why are these two books appearing almost simultaneously and what do they share in common?
They are my answer to the moral crisis that grows ever more ominous and threatening with the conviction of distinguished Danish author Lars Hedegaard of the Danish Free Press Society for exercising the right of free speech in criticizing the reluctance of many Muslim immigrants in Denmark to meaningfully integrate in Danish society and accept responsible citizenship and President Obama’s call for Israel to return to the Auschwitz Cease-Fire lines of 1949-67 as if they qualified for what U.N. Resolution 242 explicitly called secure and defensible borders.
Both of these events are our 2011 equivalent of the appeasement agreement at Munich in 1938 that sealed the destruction of Czechoslovakia, the only democracy in Eastern Europe, a country compelled to bow before the all powerful ruse of “self-determination” for a recalcitrant and hostile German minority. Instead of referring to the minority as Germans, the preferred term in the Western press was the politically correct mantra of “Sudetens” as if they were not part of a powerful and aggressive German nationalism steered by Hitler, akin to the ocean of crocodile tears shed for the “Palestinians” anxious to dismember the State of Israel with the full backing of the Arab world and Muslim ummah.
The Danish philosopher Andreas Simonsen, remarked on the great respect most Jews feel towards the past, old friends and their parents as well as the long historical memory of nationhood and the many religious obligations and commemorative holidays. This is what he termed the Jewish ability “to carry their past with themselves and be nourished by it.” It is the best definition of Zionism, and an essential characteristic of pride and self respect that is now completely out of tune with most of contemporary culture and its anti-historical attitude.
According to Simonsen, “Jews live because they remember, anti-Semitism lives because people forget,” and ”the better people remember their past and are able to integrate it with their appreciation of life, the better they are able to develop their intellect, humanity and vitality.”
The Danes, as the oldest nation in Europe with the oldest flag, have been subject to a concerted campaign of Leftwing opinion and a multiculturalism that would erase much of their historical past and cultural values. For many of those on the political Left at the time of the Mohammad cartoon affair, Danish culture and society were reduced to the pale stereotypes and clichés of socialism, cradle to the grave security, football, pornography, Hamlet, pigs, dairy cattle, beer and the inevitable charges of “racism.”
Denmark’s contribution to science, engineering, seafaring, shipping, exploration, literature, philosophy, music, art, the theatre, the cinema, dance, sports, agriculture, architecture, its record on human rights, democratic institutions, and humanistic traditions deserve to be much more widely known, especially in the wake of the negative publicity spread by the international media following the Muhammad-Cartoon affair that presented a distorted view of Danish society and ignored its centuries-old respect for democracy and tolerance.
I am an American who lived in Aarhus, Denmark from 1980-1988, a stone’s throw away from the headquarters of the now world famous newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and got to learn firsthand about the Danish folk character and the country’s long history. Denmark has more than once faced the dilemma of standing alone to uphold fundamental democratic and humanitarian principles against overwhelmingly powerful political, military and economic interests.
What was so shocking about the cartoon crisis was the general ignorance in the United States and even in Western Europe regarding Denmark. It was a bitter pill to swallow for many Danes who saw their country turned into a pariah state in 2006 by worldwide demonstrations and violence in Muslim countries over the cartoons just as Israel had been by the JIHAD GENIE that will continue to run amok (an old Danish expression) and needs to be put back in the bottle. Yesterday, Israel, Today, Denmark… tomorrow the World! Nevertheless, the full cost of the Muslim boycott of Danish goods and services was far less than first feared and more than made up by a spontaneous “Buy Danish” campaign that was wholly the initiative of individuals and owed nothing to any formal support or statement by Denmark’s “allies” in NATO and among Western heads of state.
The record needs to be set straight and proclaimed loudly and strongly. My familiarity and appreciation of Denmark, family connections, its people, culture, language, traditions and way of life were gained through first-hand knowledge of Danes I am proud to call my friends, many years residence in the country and a profound respect, admiration and sense of obligation to acquaint my fellow Americans and others with a realistic picture of what I learned. I also wrote the book as a personal testimonial to my deep sense of gratitude towards the Danish people for their conduct during World War II and especially for the aid and comfort they provided to their Jewish fellow citizens.
I had seen two Danish films at the old Thalia movie theater on Broadway and 95th Street and they had made an enormous impression on me — Dreyer’s “Ordet“ (The Word) based on the play by pastor and World War II resistance hero Kaj Munk and Ditte-Menneskebarn (Ditte-Child of Humanity) based on the book by the great proletarian writer Martin Andersen Nexø. They intrigued me — how did these writers — much like Hans Christian Andersen use the tiny canvas of their small country and “minor language” (about the same number of speakers as Hebrew) to paint such a great universal work?
Hans Christian Andersen wrote a tale in 1872 “The Most Incredible Thing” that was his response to a question that would torment other authors and intellectuals in his lifetime and during the 20th century — how to deal with the problem of evil and imminent threats to our civilization following the war of aggression against Denmark by Prussia and Austria in 1864 that was launched under the banner of “self-determination” for the Schleswig-Holsteiners (very much along the lines of the Sudetens and Palestinians). It is decidedly not a fairy tale.
Remarkably, the great Danish “fairy story teller” from ‘oh so peaceful and tranquil Denmark’ belongs to those writers who refused to be cowed by totalitarian oppression. His story, “The Most Incredible Thing,” turned out to be a prescient warning to future generations. It was taken up by the Danish Resistance Movement that had struggled during the early years of German occupation (1940-42) to rally support for active sabotage and an end to the government’s policy of appeasement. Opposing appeasement, a Danish resistance movement took shape. Among those active was a group of scholars who encouraged and helped publish new editions of “The Most Incredible Thing” with illustrations that were an open call to resist the occupation and vindicate Andersen’s belief that, in the face of pervasive, aggressive, violent evil, only eternal vigilance, armed preparedness and vigorous, unreserved military action are the only means to ensure the survival of civilization.
In the 1942 Danish publication of “The Most Incredible Thing,” the final picture portrays the watchman who strikes down the evil lout as a Jewish rabbi with hat and beard standing above the fallen semi-naked Aryan-looking “muscle man” who is pinned to the floor by the twin tables of the Ten Commandments inscribed with Hebrew letters and surrounded by a crowd of ordinary Danes in 1940s dress.
Andersen would undoubtedly have been pleased that his story about resistance to evil and the faith he had in the Judeo-Christian values of our civilization would inspire his countrymen in World War II at a time when opportunists and those who had favored a policy of appeasement for Denmark preached that resistance was hopeless. The moral of the story is just as true today and it has enabled both Denmark and Israel to survive and thrive. It is no accident these two nations are the favored targets of extremist Islamic hatred for their humanitarian societies.
Numerous complaints from the current leaders of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan bemoan any unintentional civilian casualty that may possibly have been caused by our forces struggling to protect their regimes from wanton terrorism. At the close of World War II, one of the worst accidents of the Allied bombing campaign against the German occupation forces took place in Copenhagen at the “French School,” an orphanage and the surrounding residential quarter. The damage occurred as the result of one of the British bombers that crashed during the execution of a spectacular and successful RAF low level bombing missions — the destruction of Gestapo Headquarters in the Shell Building, allowing many Danish Resistance fighters who were imprisoned on the upper level of the building to escape.
On March 21, 1945 at noon, 46 Mosquito bombers and fighter aircraft attacked Shell House with precision bombing that destroyed the lower floors of the building. More than 100 Germans and Danish collaborators were killed in the attack. Leading members of the Resistance located on the roof level and on the two floors below managed to escape in the chaos. This magnificent action that lifted Danish morale across the country was marred by the unfortunate accident of “collateral damage.” One of the low flying British aircraft unfortunately struck a signal tower on the nearby railway line. The resulting fire was mistaken by other attacking aircraft as the target and they dropped their bombs on the school. 112 Danes were killed in the conflagration that engulfed the orphanage and surrounding residential buildings, among them more than 80 children.
In spite of the terrible tragedy, the attack had a galvanizing effect that signaled to the entire country that Denmark and the Danish Resistance were valued allies who were not forgotten. It also led to a significant and immediate drop in the number of collaborators who had been shown proof that the Allied cause was triumphant and could reach them in their most protected lair. This is what we in the U.S. and U.K. have forgotten — reliable allies are only those with whom we share fundamental values — in a nation with a thousand years of history behind it such as Denmark. It is also a dramatic example of why true allies understand that in spite of the grief, such accidents and incidents should not divide us and must not be the occasion for pathetic hand wringing and calls for “investigations” (that give aid and comfort to our mortal enemies) but accepted as part of the price for victory.
The Moral Confusion of the ‘Left’
Many in our generation no longer distinguish between right and wrong (see Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong, Exposing the Left’s Assault on Our Culture and Values; Three Rivers Press, New York, 2003) and have accepted a totally false dichotomy in the reigning political equations favored portrayed by the media and many of our leading intellectuals and cultural gurus that that somehow Left is to be equated with “liberal” (i.e. tolerant and cosmopolitan) views and Right signifies reaction, intolerance, racism and antisemitism. I wrote “The Left is Seldom Right to express this hideous distortion of this Orwellian 1984 style world in which Two legs = bad, Four legs = good.
The political terms “Right” and” Left” have become banal and stale clichés which are often misleading guides that offer no clear indication about intentions, motivations and conflicting policy choices of political personalities and parties under changing circumstances. Both partisan political hacks and educated citizens who should know better use them as synonyms for the good guys and bad guys yet we know that “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” I wrote ‘The Left is Seldom Right’ to…
1. Document cases that a considerable segment of the American public is misled by the use of the terms “RIGHT vs. LEFT,” which are cliché ridden, and often erroneous in their presentation of the most essential relevant facts and the conclusions drawn. This certainly includes the prevailing Leftwing criticism of Israel’s right to defend itself and the right of free speech in Denmark and the demand that immigrants conform to the prevailing legal and moral codes of the country. 2. To demonstrate that it is primarily the Political Left that has a vested interest in the continued use of this terminology due to the considerable inroads made by the liberal media on public opinion. Many political pundits have drawn on the prestige of major writers and Hollywood celebrities whose work was shaped by a critical view of American culture as the epitome of alienation, hypocrisy and crass materialism in modern society. Their assumptions are that other cultures and societies are more authentic, “holistic,” integral and devoted to a sense of solidarity and community. These views have been reinforced in popular culture, especially in film and popular song. 3. To show that antisemitism was not inherently a part of many nationalist “right-wing” movements and that it is generated today overwhelmingly from the Far Left under the encouragement of the wealth and power of militant Islam.
Sixty years after its founding, Israel has become an outcast among the nations and the Jews a pariah people once again. How did this occur? From darling of the Left to pariah state, subject to continual venomous attacks coming from those who consider themselves “progressive” and “morally sensitive,” i.e. the mainline churches, university faculties clamoring to boycott and “disinvest” from Israeli owned companies, the media elite and those on the Left side of the political spectrum.
Whatever the differences between secular and religious Israelis, they pale before the monumental differences that separate life in the State of Israel with all its inherent promises, risks and dangers from the Diaspora’s ultra idealized concerns and sensibilities. What is so shocking when it comes to the issue of foreign policy affairs, is that hardly any “progressive” critic of Israel is ready to admit the impeccable credentials Israel earned in 1948 in a struggle against the most reactionary elements in the Arab world and endorsed by the entirety of what was then called “enlightened public opinion,” above all, by the political Left. *
They have been seduced by the onslaught of falsified and selective history that has been so frequently transmitted by the media. Some prominent American Jews, particularly among those who cannot escape the narcotic-like trance they have inherited as “progressives” and are essentially secular and ultra-critical of capitalism and American society with its underlying Christian values, have developed a new kind of psychological self-hatred to exhibit a disassociation from the State of Israel and their religious heritage. They are upset over the close Israeli-American friendship and wish to be absolved from the heinous charge that they once may have actually subscribed to a sense of Jewish solidarity when that meant only solidarity with victimhood — the Jews as eternal martyrs.
The anti-Israel mantra they hear on all sides from the political Left and their fellow “progressives” has become a substitute for historical truth. They are the organizers and members of the newly founded J-Street that accepts hook, line and sinker the Obama Party Line that people like the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are peace partners, notwithstanding the fact that his Ph.D. dissertation denies the Holocaust and refuses to acknowledge that Israel can define itself as a Jewish State. J Street has called on the Treasury department to investigate any Jewish or Christian charity that in any way aids Jews who live in any part of “Palestine” across the Green Line Cease Fire Lines of 1949, all the while demanding a Judenrein Palestine.
Its two-faced approach is all the more grotesque given its concerns and hand-wringing over the lack of progress towards the creation of a 23rd independent Arab state while pooh-poohing an existential threat to Israel from Iran, its mullah thugocracy and its repeated vows to wipe the country off the face of the map. It has sparked the formation of Z-Street by those Jews who realize that J-Street are bagmen for the Democratic Party and that Obama has been a colossal fraud with the Jewish vote in his pocket.
Obama’s call to return to the Auschwitz Cease Fire Lines prior to June 5, 1967 and his delirious infatuation with the so called Arab Spring after refusing to lift a finger or express outrage during the mass demonstrations in Iran against the theocratic mullah state is the result of a common delusion in the West that everything must be done to placate ‘the Arab Street’ (i.e., mob rule in Muslim countries). This attitude confronts both Israel and Denmark that have had to face similar challenges in order to simply exist or maintain their democratic way of life and essential rights.
It is my fervent hope that many readers, including some who have accepted that “The Left is Always Right”, or who know little about Denmark, will have much to ponder.
* See ‘The Most Widely Believed Political Myth, What America Did for Israel in 1948 -NOTHING” New English Review, December, 2007).