Last year I took Jews for granted in my Holocaust commemoration, which I feel sorry about.
Update – see Kellie’s link list for proper Holocaust commemoration – I think mine below would make any survivor nervous and sad.
This year, the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is Stand Up To Hatred – of gay people, conservative Muslims, Jews, black people, disabled people, and other groups, no matter who is doing the hating. This is a great theme. HMD’s organiser Stephen Smith writes:
“If I have learned one thing on my journey into the causes and consequences of genocide, it is that genocide happens to specific groups, but has implications for us all. As Europeans we need to ground ourselves in the history of the Holocaust, and reflect on its implications. It is our problem after all. Then as human beings we need to apply the learning points to other genocides, and to the hatred that exists in our own communities. It is easy to look back. It is more difficult to look forward. It is even more difficult to look within.”
I agree, but the comments to that piece are Gaza, Gaza, Gaza. As if it were somehow wrong to commemorate the Holocaust when Israelis killed in Gaza. This diversion from the Holocaust didn’t happen because Israel was trying to hurt Hamas. We know this because the same type of what I take to be a form of Holocaust denial happened to a New Statesman piece on Kristallnacht back in the autumn. If you scroll to the bottom of that one you’ll find a statement that they had to turn comments off, and a link to the reasons.
Israel does something objectionable, and Jews catch it. Is it so hard to understand that Jews and Israelis are sometimes different things, although they sometimes they come in the same package?
So I also have a personal theme which is perhaps rather politically incorrect for Holocaust Educational Trust: Defend The Memory Of The Holocaust From Anti-Zionists. By Anti-Zionists, I mean the monomaniacal kind of anti-Zionist who would get rid of Israel at any cost, who realises that the Holocaust is the major reason for Israel’s establishment, and therefore hopes to roll back the years by neutralising the Holocaust as a justification for Israel’s existence. Tony Greenstein. Moshe Machover. David Duke. Most of Hamas. And so on.
Cnaan Liphchiz in Ha’aretz:
“The operation in Gaza put an end to the European taboo on equating Jews to Nazis. That message was one of the conclusions of the first international panel discussion on anti-Semitism following the Gaza invasion, which was held in Jerusalem Monday on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Speaking at the panel, which was part of the World Zionist Congress conference, Professor Dina Porat said, “the comparison has now become self-understood.”
When Israel acts aggressively, it is usual for a proportion of commentators to talk, as Suzanne Weiss does so disgracefully, of a Jewish-engineered “final solution”. For many Jews, I think, the “lesson” of the Holocaust, if any, is existential vigilance: are the haters contained, are they getting stronger, will non-Jews understand the signs? Many Israelis are descended from parents and grandparents who decided that the answer to the latter two questions was no. For Israelis, this threat is incarnated as grads and qassams from Gaza backed with threats from the ayatollas. For others, it blooms at the stimulus of boycott campaigns and the easy conflation of Jew, Zionist and Israeli.
One commenter on Stephen Smith’s piece (Arkasha, 27 Jan 09, 1:59pm):
“However, I notice far too many apologists for Israel get (deliberately?) hung up on things like what seems to incense you. Why don’t you face up to what Israel is doing, instead of complaining about the “nazi” business?”
S/he is wrong – “apologists for Israel” do not have to earn the right to complain about the “nazi” business by protesting Israel. The rest of us should stand against racism, including antisemitism, irrespective of the political belief of the person who benefits from that defence. That’s what anti-discrimination means. We don’t have to sympathise with them or cuddle them – we just have to recognise and defend them against the mental aberration which is hatred on racial, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation or eugenic lines.
And as a later commenter says (Anglophobia, 27 Jan 09, 2:12pm):
“The only reason people compare the Holocaust with Israel today is because Jews are a common factor. It’s meant to hurt and persuade. The intrinsic similarities are not deep. If the fight between Israel and the Palestinians were between Sunnis and Shias or between Indians and Pakistanis, but otherwise identical, nobody would drag up Buchenwald.”
I’m pretty certain that diminishing the importance of the Holocaust will goad Israelis further from the neck-sticking-out which peace-making requires, and will make Jews feel as if it’s open season again.
Far better to enumerate the reasons for Jews to take confidence that they have left the Holocaust far behind. A cheerful, very-English student of a solid progressive democrat bent told me not so long ago that Israel needed to realise that it had won the struggle for permanency as a state. He sent me the link to an IHT piece from early 2008, which I recommend.
(Don’t tell anybody – the bloke supports a single state, and many Israelis and Palestinians would think him a little crazy. I don’t accept his analysis that the West Bank settlements have irreversibly fused Israel with the Palestinian territories, and that any attempt at schism would kill the patient. It’s just one of those things that anti-Zionsits say but don’t explain.)
The message in the IHT piece – if only it can be supported convincingly – is certainly one which removes reasons for the occupation and also one which gives Jews some reason to think of the Holocaust in the same way that all of us hope to remember the Holocaust – not as something which could quite easily happen to Jews again but as something which happened to somebody else.
On which note, let me remember, wrapped up as I am in my own problems, not to forget all those terrorised, dead, dispossessed and displaced people:
- Yad Vashem
- Arab Holocaust Centre
- The Holocaust Education Trust
- The US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Muslim Council of Britain Holocaust Commemoration