Three statements come to mind whenever I write about the Holocaust. The first I
can attribute to Elie Wiesel: “The Shoah wasn’t a crime against humanity, but a
crime against the Jews.” The second was told to me by writer Haim Guri: “Israel
was created not because of the Shoah but in spite of it.” I don’t remember who
told me the third, but it is no less valuable: Had there been a Jewish state in
the 1930s, the Holocaust might not have happened at all, or would have been on a
Do I get tired of emphasizing these three points? Of
course. But I can’t bring myself to stop.
As history becomes replaced by
narratives and universalism sets the tone, these lessons seem set to disappear.
They are being transplanted by more fashionable inclusive versions: The
Holocaust does not belong to the Jews, but to anyone who has been the victim of
violence; and Israel grew out of the Nazi atrocities and not because of any
intrinsic right of the Jewish people to their own land. Sadly, it is often Jews
in the Diaspora who fail to internalize the last message: Israel isn’t the cause
of anti-Semitism around the globe, it is the answer.
Twice a year the
world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. To be more precise, the world marks it
once – on January 27, the day Auschwitz was liberated. For the past few years it
has become a set feature on the United Nations calendar. Unfortunately, for the
rest of the year the world body raises motion after motion turning Israel into
the source of all evil. Its protection of global peace and wellbeing is so
advanced that having finally suspended Libya from the UN’s Human Rights Council,
it seems set to replace it with Bashar Assad’s Syria.
Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day – or Yom Hashoah as we call it –
in the spring, fittingly between Passover and Independence Day. This year it
commences on May 1.
Here it is marked with an eerie twominute siren for
which the traffic draws to a halt and people stand frozen. Fewer and fewer have
their own dreadful memories, but this is not about the survivors. They don’t
need a special day to remember how they’ve been through hell. This is about the
people who didn’t survive but nonetheless live on in every
Children in Israel learn about the Holocaust from an early
age. Even toddlers in day-care centers are taught to stand for the siren, and
schoolchildren hold ceremonies. But it’s hard to explain the horror or take in
the meaning of the number of those killed. That’s why it’s so important to learn
the personal stories.
It’s easier to relate to the individual experience
than try to comprehend how six million lives ended, whole family trees cut down
at the roots.
This year, under the title “Gathering the Fragments,” Yad
Vashem launched a national campaign to rescue personal items from the Holocaust
period, calling for ordinary citizens to provide documents, diaries, photos,
artifacts and works of art from those terrible years.
will find it ever harder to relate to the Holocaust, not just because the
firsthand witnesses are dying out, but because they are being brought up in a
It is an ever-changing world dominated by the “now” and
When President Barack Obama hosted a Seder at the White House
earlier this month he coolly compared the uprising in the Arab world to the
story of the Exodus from Egypt. It’s a perfect message for the Twitter
generation. With the perspective of barely three months – during which he
changed his mind more than once – Obama takes the most epic event in more than
four millennia of Jewish history and reduces it to its lowest possible common
denominator, and then distorts it some more.
I can’t wait to hear his
insights on the Holocaust.
THE WORLD is marking 50 years since the trial
of Adolf Eichmann, a trial which gave us terms like “the banality of
Have we learned its lessons? It doesn’t seem so when, under the
same principle of universal justice, Israeli leaders cannot travel to places
like Britain for fear of being arrested for “war crimes.”
As the Shoah
becomes more universalized it is being dumbed down – the greater the attempts to
apply it to all, the less relevant it becomes. The Holocaust, as Wiesel noted,
was about the systematic attempt to eradicate the Jews, their religion and their
That was it. We can and should learn from it but we can’t change
The Shoah was not about the Palestinians, but you wouldn’t know it
from the imagery that floats around on “human rights flotillas” and among their
As the Palestinians draw closer to the likely
unilateral declaration of independence, they seem to grow further from
acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. The Jewish state, as Guri noted, would
have grown faster and stronger had there been no Holocaust; the Holocaust would
have been smaller and shorter had there been a Jewish state to offer
Recently, the topic of teaching the Holocaust in Arab schools
has been the focus of heated debates.
According to Palestinian Media
Watch, this week the union of UNRWA workers in Palestinian schools said, “We
emphasize our adamant opposition to confusing the thinking of our students by
means of Holocaust studies in the human rights study curriculum, and emphasize
study of the history of Palestine and the acts of massacre which have been
carried out against Palestinians, the most recent of which was the war against
By the “war against Gaza” I assume they
mean Operation Cast Lead, a war against Hamas missile attacks from Gaza on
Israel. Missile attacks that are still taking place, for that matter. The
Palestinians are not the new Jews, and Gaza is not a ghetto.
version of human rights permits targeting an Israeli school bus and
indiscriminately launching rockets on any civilian population within reach, then
you can understand their reluctance to add the Shoah to study
Several people have e-mailed me recently telling me they feel
like this is a repeat of the 1930s. Those who live abroad cite attacks on Jews,
but above all a pervasive feeling that permits and even fosters such
The tiny Jewish community of Corfu might have been surprised
by the burning of Torah scrolls in the local synagogue this month, but Jews
elsewhere in Greece are no strangers to anti-Semitic sentiment. Ditto the Jews
of Spain, France, Denmark and Holland. A Canadian student told me she no longer
wears a Star of David on campus, and some British Jews have removed the mezuzot
from outside their doors, placing them inside where they cannot be
My answer is that this is different from those terrible years
partly because there is an Israel, albeit threatened by Iran with nuclear
genocide and constantly assaulted by terror attacks and missiles, but a success
story nonetheless. Indeed, a Gallup poll released last week declared Israel to
be the world’s seventh most “thriving” country.
There can be no better
way to avenge the Shoah.The writer is editor of the International
Jerusalem Post. firstname.lastname@example.org