Alma Mahler: The Anti-Semitic Woman Who Loved Talented Jewish Men

Alma Mahler (1879 – 1964), herself a composer of no mean ability, spent her life pursuing relationships—both romantic and platonic—with talented men. Many of these men were Jews—including her first husband, the composer Gustav Mahler, and her third, the writer Franz Werfel, as well as several of her many lovers. The daughter of a Christian Viennese painter, Alma also held fiercely anti-Semitic attitudes, which receive attention in a biography by Oliver Hilmes, recently translated into English. Bee Wilson writes in her review:

Hilmes is the first of Alma’s biographers to treat her anti-Semitism and belief in her own godliness as driving forces in her life, rather than as a form of unthinking prejudice. . . . In the diaries that Hilmes has uncovered, Alma is far more unguarded in her frequent expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment. She calls [the writer Elias] Canetti a “half-crippled, nihilistic Jew” and writes warmly of a meeting with Hitler, when, under the influence of a bottle of champagne, she admired his “kindly, soft eyes.” As Hilmes sees it, Alma deliberately sought out relationships with talented but ugly Jewish men so that she could lord it over them. She would try to improve them, even sanctify them with her love, and when this failed she would feel contempt for them. When the initial glow of feeling for Werfel wore off, in 1924, she wrote that he “has shrunk back down to the short, ugly, fat Jew” that he was when they first met.

Her anti-Semitism was so deep-rooted that it applied even to her own children. She favored Manon, the “Aryan” child of [her second husband, the architect Walter] Gropius, over Anna, the surviving child from her marriage to Mahler.

Many women have aspired to “conquer” men. Some have sought to be muses, under the impression that enabling a man’s creative work is itself a form of genius. It takes a strange personality indeed . . . to see it as her mission to inspire powerful Jewish men to worship her in order that she could then liberate them from their Jewishness.

Read more at at London Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Austria, Classical music, Gustav Mahler

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia