Auschwitz 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In recent years, the Holocaust has been subject to an increasingly sickening
blend of ruthless politicization, deliberate distortion, crass commercialization
and an often abject sentimentalism.
More ominously, it has also become a
weapon of choice for many of Israel’s worst enemies and for a resurgent
anti-Semitism which brands the entire enterprise of Holocaust memory as nothing
but a “Zionist plot.”
In contemporary Europe, Holocaust guilt is used
more often than not to promote the Palestinian cause rather than to recognize
the necessity of having a Jewish state. Arab and Islamist propaganda, aided and
abetted by many liberals and leftists (including some vocal Jewish anti-
Zionists), hammers away at the grotesque libel that Israeli policies towards the
Palestinians are worse than those of the Nazis. Many Europeans believe these
In Israel itself, there are even academics who trumpet such
absurdities which have become all-too- commonplace on certain campuses abroad,
especially in Britain, North America and Scandinavia.
degradation of the Holocaust has many causes as well as consequences that must
give us pause. It has been accompanied by an ignominious competition for the
mantle of ultimate victim-hood that exudes a perverse resentment at the fact that
Jews have allegedly “monopolized” the martyr’s crown of suffering and pain.
Efforts to elevate the Palestinian Nakba to equal status with the Shoah are only
the latest in a long line of such gross distortions.
Some years ago, the
Hungarian Nobel Prize Laureate Imre Kertész analyzed the negative reactions to
any reminder of Jewish sufferings. In 1998, he caustically observed that “the
anti-Semite of our age no longer loathes Jews; he wants Auschwitz.”
fact has not, however, prevented some Jewish intellectuals and Israelis from
pursuing their own narrow political agendas and demanding that we abandon any
engagement with Holocaust memory or universalize it out of
This is one of several well-made points in Alvin Rosenfeld’s
recent sobering study, titled The End of the Holocaust
. No intelligent person
reading this book or remotely familiar with the subject could still believe that
the banal pieties that have grown up around the mass murder of European Jewry
could serve as an effective antidote against present-day
Another striking result of the polemics surrounding
Holocaust memory is a certain fatigue or plain distaste for hearing any more
about the Jews and their specific sorrows. There has been a notable shift over
the past 20 years to searching for almost any light at the end of the Holocaust
tunnel, some kind of a happy ending or emotionally uplifting stories about human
brotherhood, altruistic rescuers and easily digestible universal moral lessons
to be drawn from this tragic history.
This trend may be humanly
all-too-understandable but it ultimately involves a dangerously naïve level of
escapism with regard to the bi-millennial Christian European Jew-hatred that made
the Holocaust possible in the first place.
Worse still, it diverts us
away from the nightmarish but not inconceivable possibility that nearly six
million Israeli Jews (as well as many Muslim Arabs) could be destroyed by a
weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Iran or one of its proxies. In other
words, there could indeed be a second Holocaust.
The originally Greek
term “Holocaust,” with its unacceptable implications of a wholly burned
sacrificial offering to the gods, is of course a misnomer for the wartime mass
slaughter of Europe’s Jews, providing the grisly event with a false glow of
Like the term “anti- Semitism,” “Holocaust” is
a misleading rationalization of the gigantic massacres perpetrated by German
Jew-haters and their fascist collaborators.
But semantics aside, we must
more than ever keep our minds focused on the cruel reality of the early 21st
century concerning the Shoah, which I have explored extensively in my recent
book on global anti- Semitism, A Lethal Obsession
, namely, that the constant
efforts to deny, relativize or invert the Holocaust – especially against Israel
– are a conscious (or unconscious) invitation to repeat it.
already apparent about 10 years ago in the very public statement by former
Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani that “the use of even one nuclear bomb
inside Israel will destroy everything.... It is not irrational to contemplate
such an eventuality.”
Iranian “rationality” is evidently very different
from that of Israel and the West. In their bizarre perspective, obtaining
nuclear weapons may well accelerate the coming of the Mahdi (the Islamic
Messiah). This is the dark cloud that hangs over International Holocaust
Remembrance Day in 2012, and it is not likely to go away.The writer is
the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of
Anti-Semitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of
Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random
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