Friday, January 29, 2010
ARE WE UNDERSTANDING THE LESSONS OF THE HOLOCAUST?
When Netanyahu declares that “Never Again” will we allow the hand of evil to sever the life of our people, he is warning: Doomed are those who try.
The bookseller Barnes & Nobel lists 8,194 Holocaust titles. Amazon stocks 2,049 Holocaust memoirs. Type in the word “Holocaust” on Google and you’ll get about 17 million hits. Not counting Jewish museums with permanent Holocaust-related exhibits, there are 30 museums and memorials devoted exclusively to the Shoah – in the US alone. Many European and American cities maintain monuments to the victims of the Holocaust. Schoolchildren throughout the Western world learn about the Holocaust. Hundreds of movies have the Holocaust as their main theme.
Following Israel’s lead, the US commemorates the Shoah on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan (April 11/12 this year). Since 2001, Britain has been marking Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 to coincide with the day Auschwitz was liberated. And in 2005, the UN General Assembly (without a formal vote) also selected January 27 as the day the world remembers the Holocaust.
In short, the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored industrial-scale annihilation of European Jewry by Hitler-led Germany is adequately memorialized.
YET THE ignorant are a hardy lot. A 2008 survey found that 13 percent of Canadians between 18 and 24 did not know what the Holocaust was. A similar percentage of British youngsters thought Hitler was the chap who discovered gravity. A survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee in 2005 revealed that most Americans did not know that Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka were concentration camps. Yet only 41% (and 35% of British respondents) strongly disagreed with the statement: “Jews are exploiting the memory of the Nazi extermination of the Jews for their own purposes.”
In Poland, only 13% disagreed strongly.
We can hazard to guess what the louts who this week desecrated Jewish gravestones at the main cemetery in Strasbourg, France believe.
BUT perhaps more troubling than ignorance, insensitivity or enduring prejudice is how some of the enlightened have redefined the Holocaust to give it a more universal – less parochial – meaning.
On the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, a leading British clergyman scripted a few perfunctory words about Elie Wiesel before moving on to the “many hundreds of thousands of … survivors of the many other genocidal events of the 20th and 21st centuries.” He also used the occasion to call for greater sensitivity toward asylum seekers. Our London correspondent, Jonny Paul, reported that the national Holocaust commemoration at the landmark Guildhall focused on remembering the Holocaust – as well as subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and the ongoing atrocities in Darfur.
On the matter of genocide, one-upmanship is both futile and morally repugnant. What matters to Zionists is that the Shoah be understood not as a universalistic metaphor, but as the culmination of long-centuries of murderous persecution under both Christian and Muslim civilizations. We do not want this manifest truth obscured by a whirlwind of sentiment – no matter how valid – that has nothing to do with the murder of our six million brethren.
AYATOLLAH Ali Khamenei’s message for Holocaust Memorial Day was to forecast that the day would definitely come when the national home of the Jewish people would be destroyed. Iran is the driving engine behind 21st century Holocaust-denial.
Of course, Israel’s legitimacy is not rooted in the Holocaust, but in the Jews’ ancient connection to the land of Israel. Still, such a chilling genocidal “forecast” reprises the January 30, 1939 “prophecy” Hitler made: that “a world war” would result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”
Regrettably, the many Holocaust memorials, museums, books and movies have failed to ensure that the Shoah is correctly understood as the outcome of Jewish weakness and statelessness. Six million Jews would not have been lost had our people regained sovereignty in this land before Hitler came to power.
Yet having shed our powerlessness for sovereignty, this country nevertheless became “the Jew among nations.” Outside the realm of theology and metaphysics, we are frankly at a loss to understand why Jew-hatred and anti-Israelism continue to thrive.
This much we do know: Not even a superpower can guarantee, absolutely, the security of its citizenry. But when our prime minister declares that “Never Again” will we allow the hand of evil to sever the life of our people, he is warning: Doomed are those who try.
I am a Jerusalem-based journalist and political scientist and a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report focusing on the Jewish World. I’m a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post and was founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily. Over the years I’ve written for Newsmax, Israel My Glory and a range of other outlets. I was also editorial director for www.balfour100.com and recently published THE BALFOUR DECLARATION SIXTY-SEVEN WORDS – 100 YEARS OF CONFLICT. Before making aliya in 1997, I worked in NYC government and as an adjunct assistant professor of political science. My memoir about growing up on the Lower East Side (well, it is more than about that) THE PATER: MY FATHER, MY JUDAISM, MY CHILDLESSNESS is available via online booksellers, Amazon kindle, and (select) in brick and mortar bookshops. By arrangement, I brief individuals and groups visiting Israel on the conflict and Jewish civilizational issues. Let me hear from you: email@example.com
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