Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CATCHING UP - too slick to deny the Holocaust outright

The new deniers


It is Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day - Yom Hashoah. Here in Israel, the sirens will sound at 10 a.m. and for two minutes work will come to a halt, vehicles will idle, and Israelis will stand in silent memory of the six million victims of Hitler's war against the Jews.

The opening ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day was broadcast live from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem last night on television and radio. In the presence of President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Rabbi Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and himself a child survivor, six torches were lit by six men and women who lived through the war as children. About 1.5 million of the murdered were children.

Today, therefore, is a time to reflect on the greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish people in modern times and to think about how anti-Semitism has morphed into anti-Zionism. It is also a day for soul-searching about the state of Holocaust remembrance.

Sixty-four years after the defeat of the Nazis, the memory and the meaning of the catastrophe they wrought is being chipped away, sometimes unintentionally, but mostly in a cynical, premeditated manner.

Holocaust denial dates back to the late 1960s and takes various forms. Some try to denigrate the Shoah by claiming that Hiroshima and Dresden prove that the allies were as heartless at the Nazis. Denial is propagated on the radical right, the radical left and by many in the Muslim and Arab world.

ON THE eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the world's preeminent Holocaust-denier and leading anti-Zionist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was granted a platform at Durban II, the UN's so-called anti-racism conference in Geneva yesterday. He promptly called for the destruction of Israel: "Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights at eradicating this barbaric racism. Efforts must be made to put an end to Zionism," he said.

We watched in distress as many in the audience and galleries applauded. Such barefaced anti-Zionism is, however, offensive to Western governments and we were gratified that dozens of EU delegates - including those from France, Finland and the UK - walked out as Ahmadinejad spewed forth his venom. Of course, the real heartbreak was that these countries were represented in the hall in the first place.

Yesterday's farce in Geneva proved again how the charge of "racism" has been cheapened to the point of having lost much of its meaning. The same holds true for the words "genocide," "war crimes," "apartheid" and "ghetto." Those who distort - willfully or through ignorance - the meanings of the dreadful vocabulary of hate for tawdry political purposes commit an unpardonable injustice.

EQUALLY pernicious are those who are too slick to deny the Holocaust outright but instead claim that Israel inoculates itself with the memory of the six million in order to kill or oppress innocent Palestinians with impunity.

A variation on the theme that Israel uses the Holocaust as a battering ram against the Palestinians is the disingenuous argument that it's time for us Israelis to move on: We need "closure," runs this line of more subtle attack, because Zionism's guiding principle of "Never Again" supposedly deludes us into thinking that we face existential threats (from Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah) or demographic threats (posed by the Palestinian demand for the "right of return"). None of these factors, these manipulators would have the world believe, really threatens our existence.

Our bogus fears, goes the claim, are as "corrosive" as they are delusionary. They make us think we are vulnerable when we - a nuclear power - are stronger than all our enemies combined. Moreover, say the anti-Zionists proponents of "closure" - Israelis have "walled, fenced, blockaded and road-blocked" millions of Palestinians "into a pitiful archipelago of helplessness" all because of our exaggerated sense of fear. We've taken our unfounded fears of annihilation and used them to inflate the nature of the threats against us. And this "retreat into the victimhood" has made us think that our violent ways are nothing more than "self-defense."

It's hard to decide which is worse - outright Holocaust-denial of the Ahmadinejad variety, or insidious assertions by Euro-leftists and anti-Zionists that would lull Israelis into letting down our guard and robbing us of the will to fight for our survival.

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