Moral Compass Lost: The Deafening Silence of Conscience - Opinion

How can a person's conscience, the internal moral compass within them, allow a denial of the Holocaust?

 Dr. Haim Ben Yakov, Director General, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (photo credit: EAJC)
Dr. Haim Ben Yakov, Director General, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress
(photo credit: EAJC)

Over the course of many years, delving into the annals of the 20th century, a singular question has perplexed me: How does the conscience, the internal moral compass presumed to resonate in every normal individual, allow for the denial of the Holocaust? The catastrophe that befell the Jews during the Second World War, an unprecedented attempt at the mass annihilation of an entire Jewish people, the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” These events emerged as pivotal in recent history, shaping the collective consciousness of modern humanity.

The Strasbourg Court has taken a resolute stance on Holocaust denial, which manifests in diverse forms in today’s world. Anyone familiar with the history of Holocaust denial understands its primary impetus—antisemitism in its various manifestations. For deniers, the Holocaust becomes an uncomfortably indelible historical fact.

Before our eyes, a foundation has been laid for the denial of the events surrounding the attack on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas, utilizing the same mechanisms: revisionism—seeking to reinterpret events based on new data, and historical negationism—denying established facts or downplaying the magnitude of their consequences.

By no means am I  equating the events of October 7, 2023, with the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War. I am convinced that such an approach is erroneous and detrimental. The scales of these events are entirely disparate. Tragically, circumstances that are yet to be thoroughly examined led to a few hours when the Israeli army and the government struggled to adequately protect their citizens, unlike the absence of any force capable of protecting Jews during the Holocaust whatsoever.

But let’s dig into the mentioned negationism and revisionism, highlighted in the news cycle of recent days:

Elena Suponina, the head of the Middle East and Asia Center at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and an experienced international journalist, addresses the issue of exchanging Israeli hostages for Palestinians convicted by courts of proven crimes. In an interview with the popular news portal REGNUM on November 24, she says, “The problem is that the HAMAS’ exchange fund’ is too small. Initially, it was reported that the terrorists managed to kidnap about 240 people. However, some of them died from injuries, and another 50 (according to HAMAS) died during Israeli airstrikes. About 35 more are in the hands of Islamic Jihad, and some are controlled by other militants. Some of them are foreign citizens and, therefore, not of particular interest to Israel. Thus, after the release of 50 people, HAMAS will have hostages only to extend the ceasefire for one week, or a maximum of two. After that, Israel can resume their war for the sake of war.”

What impression should this expert’s explanation leave on a reader not immersed in the intricacies of the Middle Eastern conflict? The expert laments that Hamas has an insufficient number of hostages—is that the crux of the problem? And if they had more, would Israel, purportedly interested in a “war for the sake of war,” be more amenable? Not to mention that the journalist  declares without any doubt that the lives of foreigners are of little interest to Israel.

The Sky News anchor, interviewing Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levi on November 23 regarding Israel’s agreement to exchange hostages—peaceful Israeli citizens for terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails, in a three-to-one ratio, asked whether this ratio implies that Israel values Palestinian lives less than Israeli lives. Levi was taken aback by such a question and attempted to explain that “If we could release one prisoner for every hostage, we would obviously do that,” he continued, reminding the anchor that Israel is not “choosing to release these prisoners who have blood on their hands,” but obtaining the release of citizens had to be pursued in terrible conditions. How can one comment on such phrasing by the news anchor?

On November 26, Reuters reported on the release of civilian hostages, stating that it wasn’t children, mothers, and four foreigners who were freed but 13 Israeli soldiers. In the eyes of Reuters editors, do children and the elderly also qualify as Israeli soldiers?

Finally, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, commenting on the liberation of an Irish-Israeli child from Hamas captivity, posted on his Twitter page on November 26: “This is a day of immense joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family. An innocent child who was lost is now found and returned, and we breathe a sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered.” The reaction of the Irish politician revolved around the following objective facts: Emily Cornberg-Hand (8 years old), a citizen of Israel and Ireland, was kidnapped by terrorists from her home during an attack on Israeli territory on October 7. The Irish government was involved in obtaining information about Emily’s fate, and only after more than a month did it become known that the girl was alive. The same Eylon Levy rightfully responded to this: “In reality, the situation is like this. Emily Hand was not ‘lost’. She was cruelly abducted by squads of killers who murdered her neighbors. Emily was not exactly ‘found.’ Hamas knew all along where she was, callously keeping her hostage. And Hamas did not answer anyone’s prayers. It responded to military pressure from Israel.” 

So one can ask, what motivates all those individuals: specific ideological convictions, a political agenda, superficial perceptions of events, or prejudices? Why do they insist on consistently downplaying facts or denying them? The answer to these questions is becoming clear — it’s the same traditional motives and methodologies that have served Holocaust deniers for many years. And speaking frankly, it’s just the same old antisemitism.