Jose Saramago, Nobel laureate in literature and anti-Semite, died Friday aged 87.
Saramago won his prize in 1998. He put his new global fame to the service of a new cause: denunciations of Israel. But unlike other European anti-Zionists, Saramago explicitly connected his dislike of Israel to his feelings about Jews.
In a speech in Brazil on Oct. 13, 2003, Saramago reportedly unburdened himself of this thought about the world’s Jews: “Living under the shadows of the Holocaust and expecting to be forgiven for anything they do on behalf of what they have suffered seems abusive to me. They didn’t learn anything from the suffering of their parents and grandparents.”
It was Judaism itself that Saramago blamed for everything he disliked in Israel. He wrote in the Spanish newspaper El Pais on April 21, 2002:
“[C]ontaminated by the monstrous and rooted ‘certitude’ that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God … the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner. Israel seizes hold of the terrible words of God in Deuteronomy: ‘Vengeance is mine, and I will be repaid.’”
A few weeks previous, Saramago had visited Ramallah. The visit occurred shortly after the Passover 2002 suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel that killed 30 people and wounded 140 more. Saramago expressed no grief for these murdered innocents. Instead, he toured areas damaged during fighting between Israeli and Palestinian armed forces and pronounced to a Portuguese radio interviewer: “[I]n Palestine, there is a crime which we can stop. We may compare it with what happened at Auschwitz.”
Most European critics of Israel try to draw some kind of line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The line may be half-hearted and unconvincing, but still — they try. Saramago ignored such niceties. He followed the example of Middle Eastern anti-Zionists: He hated Israel, he hated the Jews who lived there and he did not scruple to express his hatred bluntly…