Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Icelandic state broadcasters defend reading anti-semitic poem before Easter

In February, the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to Iceland's Radio and TV director:

Dear Mr. Magnusson:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a leading Jewish Human Rights NGO dedicated to learning the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust and promoting tolerance and mutual respect and understanding. On behalf of our 400,000 constituent families, I am writing to you about a matter of deep distress to our community.

As you know, since 1944, the entire Hymns of the Passion by Hallgrimur Petursson have been broadcast by the State Broadcasting Service to the people in Iceland. We understand that one hymn is read each day for the 9-week period of Lent, and that it is considered a major honor to be asked to read one of these hymns over the air. Many of Iceland's most distinguished citizens, including the late President, Mrs. Vigdis Finnbogadottir, have accepted the invitation with pride.

While we deeply respect the Christian faith and faithful, we feel we must express our shock over the many blatantly anti-Semitic references that pervade Petursson's Hymns. There are over 50 references to Jews, all of them negative, most of which reinforce hateful notions about Jews that laid the theological groundwork for 20 centuries of anti-Semitic hatred and persecution.

It is inconceivable that such intolerance be expressed anywhere, but even more so over the airwaves of a modem democratic nation. The fact that such anti-Semitic references are read by some of the nation's most distinguished citizens over the air serves to only reinforce hateful notions about Jews and poison new generations of impressionable young people with onerous stereotypes of Jewish cunning, treachery, and of course, the toxic charge of deicide.

We are attaching a list of the anti-Semitic references included in Petursson's Hymns. Out of a sense of deep respect, but profound urging, we ask you and other officials of the State Broadcasting Service to once and for all, eliminate them from the airwaves of the RUV. The people of Iceland and the Jewish people deserve better.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Associate Dean

Here are some of the references to Jews in the Hymns of the Passion:
Page 26 Judas' Kiss and Christ's Arrest
It was the Jews who bound thee, They clung like cords around thee

Page 34 Christ's address to the Jews
But not a ray of Heaven's love could pierce their self-willed blindness

Page 64 The Soldiers mock Christ
Never an unknown man deride
Though he appear undignified.
Canst tell the butt of thine abuse
Better than did these foolish Jews?

Page 69 The Priest's Conference
Early the Jews decided Thee,
Saviour, to convict
And in their zeal misguided
Death's penalty inflict.

Page 100 The Demand for Crucifixion
The Jewish leaders all decide
That Jesus must be crucified
The Prince of Life their prey must be
The murd'rer set at liberty

Page 111-112 Christ led from the Judgment Hall
The Jewish crowd replied
"Away with Him!" they shouted,
Their enmity undoubted
"He must be crucified!"
The righteous law of Moses
The Jews here misapplied,
Which their deceit exposes,
Their hatred and their pride.

Page 125 Pilate's Unjust Judgment
Upon themselves and on their seed
The burden of their dreadful deed
The Jews assumed in thoughtless rage.
It dogs their steps from age to age

Page 132 Christ bears His cross
And on the Gentiles God will pour
The boundless riches of His grace.
What the Jew foolishly forswore
He makes of us -- a chosen race.

Page 149-151 The Superscription on the Cross
That all might know its meaning.
The Jews its truth would not admit,
lts message contravening.
"It must not stand!"
Was their demand,
Such honor would the Jews deny
To Jesus, Whom they hated.

Page 203 The Burial of Christ
Fearing the Jews harsh enmity

Page 248 The Guard on Watch
That Christ was risen the Jews denied.
The evidence they sought to hide.
But God's great wisdom could defeat
Their plan to cheat
And soon laid bare their vile deceit.

This is classic Christian anti-semitism that has been used as an excuse to murder countless souls over the centuries.

But Iceland's TV director sees no problem with this text being read by celebrities:

Dear Mr. Cooper

I have received and contemplated your letter of February 23'd , 2012. While I think that an enlightened discussion of the content and spirit of the Hymns of the Passion is both useful and interesting, I strongly believe that your somewhat harsh interpretation of what you call "anti-Semetic references" in the hymns is not justified.

In any case, I ask you to bear in mind that the hymns are written 350 years ago and they describe the poet's feelings about events that supposedly took place around 2000 years ago. The Hymns of the Passion are a valued and cherished part of Iceland's cultural history and heritage and the RUV will continue to broadcast them in a suitable and relevant context.

With best regards and respect,

Páll Magnússon

A number of neo-Nazi sites have seized onto this story and write things like "There are only 30 Jews in Iceland - 30 too many."

(h/t Tundra Tabloids)