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How Arturo Toscanini Defied Both Mussolini and Hitler

Aug. 28 2017

When the great Italian conductor was dissatisfied with an orchestra’s performance, Terry Teachout writes, “he flew into screaming rages whose verbal violence would likely not be believed were it not for the fact that there were secret tapes made.” As far as his private life was concerned, he was “a compulsive philanderer whose love letters to his mistresses are explicit to the point of pornography.” Yet, as a new biography shows, he displayed a great deal of moral integrity when he was wooed by murderous regimes:

[T]here is . . . a parallel between the passionate conscientiousness of [Toscanini’s] music-making and his refusal to compromise with Hitler and Mussolini, both of whom were sufficiently knowledgeable about music to understand what a coup it would have been to co-opt the world’s greatest conductor. . . .

If anything, Toscanini’s hatred for the Nazis was even more potent [than for Italian fascists], above all because he was disgusted by their anti-Semitism. A philo-Semite who referred to the Jews as “this marvelous people persecuted by the modern Nero,” he wrote a letter to one of his mistresses in the immediate wake of the [1938] Anschluss [of Austria] that makes for arresting reading eight decades later, “My heart is torn in bits and pieces. When you think about this tragic destruction of the Jewish population of Austria, it makes your blood turn cold.” . . .

Toscanini felt so strongly about the rising tide of anti-Semitism that he agreed in 1936 to conduct the inaugural concerts of the Palestine Symphony (later the Israel Philharmonic) as a gesture of solidarity with the Jews. In an even more consequential gesture, he had already terminated his relationship with the Bayreuth [music] festival, where he had conducted in 1930 and 1931—the first non-German conductor to do so. While the founder of the festival, Richard Wagner, ranked alongside Beethoven, Brahms, and Verdi at the top of Toscanini’s pantheon of musical gods, he was well aware that many of the members of the Wagner family who ran Bayreuth were close friends of Adolf Hitler, and he decided to stop conducting in Germany—Bayreuth included—when the Nazis came to power. . . .

Toscanini never performed in Germany again, nor would he forgive those musicians . . . who continued to do so.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Hitler, Arts & Culture, Benito Mussolini, Music, Philo-Semitism, Richard Wagner

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy