After the Terror: The Fall
and Rise of a Book in Germany
by Ted Honderich
saga needs a brisk introductory summary, which is as follows. British
philosopher writes book on moral state of the world after 9/11. In
passing touches on and defends Zionism, (support for founding and
security of Israel within roughly its 1948 borders). Also touches on
justifies Palestinian terrorism against ethnic cleansing of neo-Zionism
(expansion of Israel since 1967 outside of 1948 borders). German
education and Holocaust centre director declares German translation of
book anti-Semitic in German newspaper. Next day, doyen of German
philosophers writes he recommended book for translation and it
is not anti-Semitic, but apologetically. On the third day German
publisher 'bans' book. Author then demands German professor of
education be relieved of duties for misconduct inconsistent with
academic principle. Large German
controversy ensues. Author's lecture in Leipzig requires police
protection, etc. Book retranslated and published in Germany again, by
another publisher, Jewish. More lectures in Germany, etc.
other adventures of the book and author, see Oxfam
G.B., £5000, Neo-Zionism, After the Terror, and Medical Aid for
Palestinians, and Ted Honderich and
the newspaper LondonStudent.
Being Persona Non Grata to Some Palestinians Too. You can also see brief sample judgements by reviewers
of the book.
book After the Terror, of which you can
turn to a chapter, was published in Britain
by Edinburgh University Press, and in the United States by Columbia
University Press, in 2002. It has subsequently also been brought out by
McGill-Queens University Press. It is reflection on the moral state of
world prompted by September 11 -- a kind of moral philosophy,
centrally about the rich world's omissions to help those in
wretchedness. We fail to do anything about a sample loss of 20 million
years of living-time in four African countries.
But, turning briefly to one example of our commissions as against
our omissions -- which distinction between two kinds of actions no
longer seems to me quite what it did -- the book condemns us
and mainly America for support of neo-Zionism.
The latter, certainly distinct from Zionism, is the enlargement
of Israel beyond its 1948 borders with all that this has entailed, the
violation of Palestine.
book declares the Palestinians have a moral right to
their terrorism, such a right as the Israeli state in effect claims
daily for its killings.
The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper that in
effect has been neo-Zionist, particularly since acquiring a
new editor, succeeded in getting Oxfam Great Britain not to accept
£5000 in royalties from the book. This was done by threatening
the charity with a story saying that it was taking money from a
sympathizer. For an account of all that, if you want it, turn to Oxfam GB, After the Terror, Neo-Zionism,
and Medical Aid for Palestinians .
What is presently relevant, relevant to the German story you are
about to hear, is that not a word appeared in the Globe and
Mail or in subsequent newspaper or other accounts in Britain
about the the idea of the book's being anti-Semitic. What it was,
rather, according to the newspaper and some other participants in the
matter, was outrageous on account of assigning a moral right to some
As I see in retrospect, having been educated by experience since then,
that is not quite right, in fact not at all right. It
is not that the newspaper was outraged by my assigning a moral right
to some terrorism -- any terrorism. Not a word would have
been said by by the newspaper, not a syllable, if the
terrorism in question had not been Palestinian terrorism
against the state of Israel. It would never have crossed
the newspaper's mind to blackmail the charity. In all likelihood, at
any rate, general moral principle
or customary morality or respectability or the like would not have
occurred to it.
Nor was the newspaper privately concerned with anti-Semitism, which
it discerned but for some reason chose not to mention.
There would be no reason not to mention it. What it was
engaged in, as in the case of those neo-Zionists about whom you are
about to hear, was simply the politics that supports the
taking or keeping of more of the land and lives and freedom and
respect of the Palestinians. It is merely an awful selfishness on
of a stronger people against their victims, the policy of beggaring
them, killing them, imprisoning and degrading them.
In July 2003, the German publishing house Suhrkamp brought out a
translation of the book, Nach dem Terror, translated by
Eva Gilmer. In early August one Mischa Brumlik, head of
a Holocaust centre in Germany and a professor of education at a
Frankfurt university, wrote an open letter to a German liberal
newspaper, the Frankfurter Rundschau . Its title amazes
It is, apparently correctly translated into English,
'Philosophical Jew-Hate'. The
Brumlik letter, at which you can look, said the book was
demanded that the publisher withdraw it from sale.
Having heard of the neo-Zionist tactic of crying anti-Semitism, and
indeed encountered an absurd bit of it myself,
quickly retracted, at an American philosophy
conference, and also some callow student stuff at an American
I was not much bothered. It seemed to be true from what Brumlik wrote,
as indeed it turned out to be, that I had written a hasty and clumsy
sentence in my book about where Jewish immigrants from Russia had
in Israel and the occupied territories. But that detail -- it
was indeed a detail -- could not conceivably weaken my
of argument in any significant way.
And as for the charge of anti-Semitism, there was so very much to say
against the nonsense of it. For a start, why had this not been
noticed by various publishers and their editors? And why had it
not been noticed when I presented the book in the paper 'After the Terror: A Book and Further
Thoughts', and indeed took the argument about a moral right
had the anti-Semitism in the paper not been discerned when
it was read out in Columbia University, which is not short of Jewish
academics tough enough to speak up, and the New School in New York, the
University of Toronto, Brown University, Oxford University, London
Durham University, Edinburgh University, and at meetings organized by
had no single reviewer of the English edition of the book
noticed this dark fact? How had The Guardian, that confident
English liberal newspaper, failed to see it? Its diplomatic
Martin Woollacott, has his head screwed on and is a careful man. There
was the literary editor of The Times too, Erica Wagner, who
picked out After the Terror as the best reflective book having
to do with September 11. Was she asleep too? And the reviewers in
and Canada? And Baroness Warnock too of the House of Lords, one of the
endorsers of the book on its English jacket?
Then there was all my other writing -- say the stuff on the Principle
of Equalityand egalitarianism and in particular on personal respect
and self-respect, and the articles on John Stuart Mill, and the book
on punishment, and the support for a morality of concern that is all
about the badly-off. and the earlier book on political violence.
Even the books and papers on determinism and our human hopes, in
our life-hopes, and also our hurts and deprivations of great goods.
number of anti-Semites among people with my set of familiar Left
Wing or 'progressive' English attitudes, old Labour Party members and
the like, demonstrators against nuclear warfare and
so on, is of course vanishingly small. We are not rural conservatives
or the envious petit bourgeoisie or old English squirearchy or
whatever. You couldn't conceivably defeat the strong presumption
that any person with my known attitudes is not an
by means of some limp utterance about anti-Semitism turning up
everywhere, or some easy allegation out of history about the Left
in some other country, say about Communists in Russia.
It also occurred to me early that people could look at my industriously
confessional philosophical autobiography.
They would there discover something much better than no mention
of Jews or Jewishness, which would have been but a weak defence against
the charge of anti-Semitism. They wouldn't, either, just
about my refusing to visit Germany because of the Holocaust until
the Wall came down, and my having been married to a Jewish woman,
and having Jewish family members now, and a telling want of
not the strategic silence of an anti-Semite, about my not being
in love with either Brooklyn or bagels.
Rather, they would find a lot of human interaction with Jewish
colleagues, Jewish women and so on, some of it competitive, some of it
judgemental, but none of it other than human. None of it
condescending -- none of it different from interaction with other
Most of the villains in the book, so to speak, are non-Jewish.
In such a book, taken by all reviewers to be a striking attempt at
by some to be a foolhardy one, this was as good as a disproof of the
If people wanted more, they could look at incidental writings as
against books -- say a couple of paragraphs about
anti-Semitism in a New Statesman
review of A. J. Ayer's second volume of autobiography. Praise of
him for having stood up against anti-Semitism at his old school, Eton.
Have a look yourself reader. The paragraphs are towards the end of the
Nobody, if they actually thought for a moment about the half-joke that
it's always an anti-Semite or it's likely an
anti-Semite who says 'some of my best friends are Jews', would
take it for a fact, let alone a fact of any use in serious argument.
Anybody would realize that someone's real connections and relations
of an ordinarily close and good character with many members of a race,
group, minority or whatever are simply the best proof there can be
the idea that the person in question has racial feelings or the like.
What would be a better proof?
could refute it? Certainly not what somebody just
says, somebody who has his own fish to fry -- somebody
with a political motive. Certainly not some self-certified peerer into
the depths and recesses of other people's minds.
Do I hear you say, reader, remembering your Shakespeare, methinks
he doth protest too much? Well, I am pleased to say that I protest
even more, hopefully to good purpose, in some of the other writings to
which you are invited to turn. Among my reasons is a general one.
What matters to you about yourself, reader? Do you think of yourself
as in a particular way decent? Have you over years done
something loyal, something that now sustains you in your
awareness of your imperfections? Is your identity to yourself something
that depends on your having learned to do something well? Have you
depended on the reasonable idea that you are intelligent enough,
financially straight, or maybe just not embarrassing socially
professionally or socially? Trusted by colleagues, or a mother who
cared for a child?
reader, methinks you could spend a minute or two thinking on your
reaction to a libel against you with respect to what you care
about. Say an incidental libel, made use of for a further indecent
Say a libel not easy to deal with by refutation, however good the
refutation, and one likely to linger and to be useful to whatever
one has. A libel that a few people will act on.
But go back to the day after Brumlik's letter was published. On that
day Germany's outstanding philosopher, indeed the doyen of
German philosophers, Prof. Jurgen Habermas, wrote a piece in the
Frankfurter Rundschau saying that he had personally recommended
my book to the publisher for translation, as indeed he had. Further,
he had read it again last night to check, and it was definitely not
anti-Semitic. Still, like any good German finding himself in the
neighbourhood of an allegation of anti-Semitism, he was
apologetic -- if he had hurt any feelings, he was sorry, etc. He was
not among my most forthright defenders, or outstandingly consistent,
and the title of his piece in the German was somewhat puzzling. Turn to
A Shirtsleeves Tract: Why I
Recommended This Book. There is also the original German
day after that, to my great surprise, indeed shock, Suhrkamp
announced they were banning the book. Subsequently it became clear that
what they were doing was just not reprinting, having sold out their
first print-run of 3,000 copies.
I was now, among other things, outraged at the stupidity,
or the lie, or the vile self-deception, of taking me for or
branding me as an anti-Semite. It was no longer just nonsense. In
a German context, anti-Semitism is of course not a matter of who you
would prefer not to have in your local golf club, or even who you would
like your daughter not to marry, but about gas chambers. It is
also about neo-Nazis and the desecration of cemeteries.
A pity I was not then better informed. I could have avoided a bit of
personal hurt. The slur of anti-Semitism is a long-running,
widely-used and well-catalogued fact. It is a political tool,
mostly used when neo-Zionism is in new need of defence. It is
used, of course, against critics of Israel who are themselves Jews.
Seemingly with the aid of psychoanalytic insight, as it was once
confidently known, they are perceived and announced to be 'self-hating
Chomsky, the greatest moral judge of this age, is of course at their
In fact, rather than being unusal, singled out, I was joining
thousands, indeed tens of thousands. Joining a company that is for
the most part honourable and honest and without racial prejudice.
The people I have in mind are, very simply, Left Wing or something of
the sort and thus opposed to the vicious unfairness of what is being
done to the Palestinians. Exactly what they are not is
prejudiced. See for example the book The Politics of
Anti-Semitism , edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St.
in particular the first chapter, 'What is Anti-Semitism', by the
philosopher Michael Neumann. He does not need the certification
Frankfurter Rundschau published an open letter from me
replying to Brumlik's charge and demand, leaving out my important first
paragraph, which touched on the ordinariness of claims of moral rights
to violence and killing, certainly including the ongoing claims
of the Israeli state. My letter did not omit
my own Jewish family connections. The letter concluded by
demanding that Brumlik's university consider sacking him
for his gross violation of academic principle.
Being inclined to sue him for libel, I took some German legal advice,
from a renowned source. It was to the effect that
I might win a case against him, but the probability could not
be high. He had taken care to write, whatever the obvious and indeed
overwhelming implication about me, that it was my book that was
distinct from its author. And there was a German law about 'free
was my understanding that the probability of winning in court had to
do with the general state of German attitudes and feelings, in
particular guilt about the Holocaust and related feelings,
with respect to any matter that can be tainted by a charge of
anti-Semitism. The German lawyer said my better recourse was standing
up for myself outside the courts.
What happened next was what surprised me most, and, incidentally,
confirmed what has just been said about the general state
of German attitudes and feelings. This was a 'firestorm' about the
whole thing in the German press, radio and television. The
controversy apparently widened to German guilt, anti-Semitism
more generally, etc. The Frankfurt paper alone had
published 11 stories or articles on the matter at one date. If memory
me correctly, it had published more than 25 in the end.
There was a long German television programme, in which, from our
garden in Somerset, I defended myself. Brumlik, according to the
several translations I have got, distinguished himself further on
the programme by saying a certain thing in a suitably garbled sentence
or two. This was that the proof of my anti-Semitism was that in my book
I blamed the tragedy of Africa, the 20 million years of life lost, on
the state of Israel.
To read my book with something like good will and ordinary attention,
and to draw this conclusion, would be to fail a test of
rudimentary intelligence. Do have a look. It won't take you long. There
are only a very few pages on Israel and Palestine, and both 'Palestine'
and 'Israel' and 'living time, 20 millon years lost' are in the index.
The scale of the whole German discussion was
astonishing. As of 17 September 2003, a search of the web by
Google using the German title of the book and my name would initially
turn up 138 newspaper pieces, radio things and such-like. You would
get 1,000, not all reprintings or whatever of the 138, by going to
the last screen and clicking on a link there. One more statistic:
Google actually said on its first screen that there were 44,500
items on the web -- I don't know what this meant, but it
certainly meant something.
Certainly the controversy, of which I have little grasp, not
being able to read German, did not all go against me. Brumlik was
certainly disdained in a number of pieces. I am not sure if the
controversy went against me in a definite way at all. Various persons
said the book was not anti-Semitic. More did not take a view. Quite a
few condemned or questioned the publishing house -- which, it
turned out, had Jewish ownership and a Jewish history itself.
Then there was far better news. In later September two
other German publishers put in to republish the book. I chose
the first one in the field. He is Abraham Melzer, and it is not
irrelevant that he is Jewish. He has published, in his very mixed list,
a number of Jewish books. He is also an Israeli.
Contracts, it seems, may also be signed with another German
publisher for the translation of two others of my books presently being
published in English.These are a new edition of my old political
violence book, now out from Pluto Press, intelligent and radical and
not notably racist, and one of three collections of my papers, Political
and Social Ends , coming out from Edinburgh University Press.
is to be added that After the Terror, my anti-Semitic work,
has now been republished in an enlarged paperback edition by that
distinguished publisher, with a new final chapter, 'Later Thoughts on
Terrorism for Humanity'. They had time to think again in Edinburgh, say
that circumstances had changed. The book has also been published by yet
another publisher blind to its nature, in this case McGill Queens
University Press in Canada. Do they do Mein Kampf as
while I am on this theme, how is it that the organizers of the
20th International Social Philosophy at Northeastern University in
Boson did not see the contents of After the Terror when they
read it, as indeed they did, after the Oxfam fuss and before issuing
their invitation to me to speak? Why are they publishing the result of
their invitation in their proceedings?
has it come about that the editor and the internationally
established publisher of The Journal of Ethics have dignified
by publication the paper 'After the Terror: A Book and Further
paper read at Columbia and so on?
about the editors of the long-running journal, The Monist
? Presumably they have missed the anti-Semitism in 'Twenty Millions
Years of Living Time' because of being distracted by the wily
camouflage, the sharp paragraph about the German railwayman who made
himself comfortable by certain means after he had the thought that he
ought to be doing something about the genoicide of the Jews?
have organizers of meetings at upcoming conferences of the American
Philosophical Assocation, the great institution of the APA in its
several divisions, failed to see what they are doing in issuing
invitations to me? What about the literary festivals? Should the
editors of German journals in the philosophy of mind not be chary of
publishing my tainted thoughts on the nature of consciousness? How does
it happen that they aren't? Are all these persons in an anti-Semitic
plot, or at least colluding with anti-Semitism?
October I went to the University of Leipzig, so honourable in
its defence of a right of free speech, as is its Professor
Georg Meggle, to give a lecture, there titled 'Is there a
Right to Terrorism?' Turn to either the shorter version or the full text , under the
title 'Palestinian Terrorism, Morality, and
Germany'. There is also a
translation of the shorter version.
I went to give the lecture, which takes matters forward, but also, so
to speak, to meet Brumlik, who was also invited. He
declined to come, saying that he would not share a platform with
someone who had called for him to be dismissed from his university
position. So too did Prof. Dr. Habermas decline to turn up and explain
his views further.
The lecture, as several of the German newspapers said,
was a case of philosophy under police protection. The
20 riot police and plain-clothes officers were needed, seemingly
against more forces than those of the neo-Zionists -- but all brought
to the scene by the dirty morals and dirty politics of Brumlik's
protesters, it seems, including those who occupied
part of the platform with their banner, were ultra-Left personnel. It
was a bear-garden, but the lecture was given, and simultaneously
translated by the courageous Beatrice
Kobow. After the lecture, while Ingrid and I were being spirited
away by police, a student lost some teeth to the protesters. For a
couple of accounts, if you read German, try the websites of the Frankfurter
Rundschau and the Leipziger Volkszeitung .
The Frankfurter Rundschau's account, light-hearted but
certainly with a purpose, managed to imply that I had recanted the
inflammatory proposition in my book. I wrote a piece for them
respectfully putting this right. After taking thought, the liberal
newspaper declined to publish it. Rather, they published a piece by
Brumlik seemingly saying that I had changed my mind. This prompted me
to get my piece into the honourable publication Junge Welt .
You can read this declaration in English or in German .
the lecture, it has to do in part with being silent about a rape
because your father has committed a murder. It repeats the proposition,
which I believe, that my accuser has degraded the standing of
a university professor, and hence that he should be relieved of
this line of life.
long after coming back from Germany, I had another
experience also mistakenly taken by me to be more special
than it was. Critics of neo-Zionism get the attention
of some individuals good with computers and the web. Those
at least some of them around New York and Boston, send out email
messages that say they come from a critic of Zionism. The messages have
the name of being spoofs.
If you would like, have a look at
'mine' . Somewhere between 20,000 and about 750,000 of these
were sent out, as indicated by the 20,000 or so that went to e-mail
addresses that did not work, and resulted in
messages back to me -- these being an intended part of the
Subsequently, there were some pretended honest protests , at the same level, to the web
service provider who
was harbouring this Nazi and letting him send out these messages
saying 'Kill the Jews!'.
It was indicative of something, no doubt, but only momentarily an
embarrassment to me.
What has been written about Nach dem Terror in Germany, as
already indicated, is beyond my summary. Some of it is of interest,
and of wider interest. The neo-Zionist stuff of which I know
surely is often not truthful. Certainly it is not true. But some items
from America are also worth noticing. However they are to be
they show that Germany does not have a certain monopoly.
The Boston Globe's piece, by one Jefferson
Chase, was at least wonderfully misleading in what
it said of Habermas's letter. The Globe just left out that
Habermas denied the book was anti-Semitic. The Globe also
said I assert what I explicitly deny in the book, that acts of terror
generally are morally justified. It omitted to mention that
Brumlik's less academic line of life is in a Holocaust
center. It failed to report that pp. 29-9 of my book make it clear
doubt that those who seem to have learned racism from their abusers, in
my view, are not Jews in general, but neo-Zionists. Or forget about the
context. They are identified by the very next sentence.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, read widely in American
universities, carried a piece by Prof. Richard Wolin, ' Are
Suicide Bombings Morally Defensible? '. You can also read my reply to him. Its last paragraph
summarizes most of my attitude to the several controversies about the
Finally, four postscripts and a general conclusion.
were ongoing ructions at my erstwhile publisher, Suhrkamp, the
widow of whose founder reported in an article that I said on television
that Germany is now managed by Jews. A board of advisors, I think
including Prof. Dr. Habermas, either resigned or was pushed. It
may be that this has something to do with the matter of
Nach dem Terror. So it is said in the
German press, certainly.
The Leipzig lecture, it seems, is to come out in a German philosophy
journal. The journal is not connected with the University of Leipzig.
way of another postscript, in no way uncertain, Nach dem
Terror is now in print and in shops again, translated by Thomas
Fehige, thanks to the admirable Melzer Verlag. Abraham Melzer is doing
a service not only to me, as it is good to be able to point out clearly
in the last few lines of the book's own
fourth postscript here arises from my having had to look just the
other day at my book Conservatism, published in 1990 and
translated into German soon after as Das Elend des
Konservativismus. On pp. 161-2 of the English
edition, it comes to the subject of Conservatism and
After glancing at the anti-Semitic Edmund Burke of Reflections
on the Revolution in France in this connection, it turns
to an English Conservative and member of the New Right of our own day,
the philosopher, writer and journalist Roger Scruton. Three of my
the second one quoting some lines from Scruton, are as follows.
To come up to date quickly, and to put
aside German and French Conservatism, and Fascism, and Fascist remnants
in Britain, there has been a noticeable ambiguity in some writing
of the New Right. Scruton again:
'...while it is a long-standing principle
of British law that the fomentation of hatred (and hence of racial
hatred) is a serious criminal offence, it is not clear that illiberal
sentiments have to be forms of hatred, nor that they should be treated
in the high-handed way that is calculated to make them become so. On
the contrary, they are sentiments which seem to arise inevitably from
social consciousness: they involve natural prejudice, and a desire for
the company of one's own kind. That is hardly sufficient ground to
condemn them as 'racist', or to invoke against them those frivolous
fulminations which have been
aptly described as "death-camp chic".'
I take it that the persons who engage in
the chic in question are those whom other Conservatives describe as
merely fashionable liberals -- persons sometimes identified as inclined
to the modishness of Hampstead, a salubrious part of London once
thought to be enlightened in politics. In speaking of racial
exclusiveness and indeed racism, they may connect it in a way with
Dachau and Buchenwald. That they speak truth is not to be allowed to
excuse them. Whatever they are charged with, I would rather be of their
number than to have been able to use the odious description with which
the passage ends. There are things about which is not near to decent to
take those judgements of mine to be the judgements of an anti-Semite
would indeed, I think, to be lying or stupid or vilely self-deceived.
It would, more importantly, be a matter of engaging in dirty
politics with a grisly purpose.
same is to be said, certainly, of reading the judgements and then
still according any respect to the libel against After
The Terror. An honourable man who had fallen into a libel, by
whatever means, might be expected to recant it.
make out that someone who in such a circumstance and way condemns
possible anti-Semitism is himself an anti-Semite is go against
overwhelming presumption. It is to go against a presumption almost
dead right in a serious matter in the real world. To go against it is
to rely on not merely unscientific but also weak, self-serving,
and now discredited theories of psychoanalysis or the like.
is also a general conclusion to be drawn from all of what
you have heard. What is most important, to my mind, despite
my own preoccupation, is not a correct judgement in this personal case,
my case, seeing through this particular bit of the dirty morals
and politics -- or even an awareness of the general fact of such
dirty morals and politics.
are Zionists, as you have heard, Jewish and non-Jewish, of whom I
am one. There are also neo-Zionists, Jewish and non-Jewish. The
category of neo-Zionists includes people who make use of or tolerate
the libel of anti-Semitism.
libel, you can conclude, is important in a certain way. It throws
a light on the principal contentions of these
people in favour of neo-Zionism. It throws a light on their historical
claims, their invoking of 'democracy' against 'terrorism', their
condemnation of the killing of civilians, their claims about the
threat to Israel's existence, their denials of their racism, their
judgement on honourable Jews and Israelis opposed to neo-Zionism, and
be someone who makes use of the libel is to be someone
rightly doubted in these other principal contentions of neo-Zionism.
You cannot trust the other contentions and judgements of such a person.
to see this, not to declare it, is to abandon the true victims of
this day, the true victims of discrimination and so much more. The
Palestinians have need of us.
19 March 05
Dr. Paech's 'Open Letter to a
Discerner of anti-Semitism' --
English / German. 'Worse
than Moelleman: An Interview in the
Wrong Place' --
An interview by Max Lorenzen of the
Marburger Forum: English /
Suicide-Bombings Morally Defensible? A Reply to Richard Wolin' in
the Chronicle of Higher Education.
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