Holocaust remembrance without Jews? Canada’s new prime minister, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, gave it a try. His seven-sentence official statement on International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, January 27 mentioned “millions of victims,” “the Holocaust” and “Nazis.” Just not Jews.
Some Canadians were outraged, but anyone cognizant of history’s deadly ironies should not have been surprised. The European Union’s then-foreign affairs chief, Britain’s Catherine Ashton, did the same thing in 2014.
Her short Holocaust Commemoration Day statement on behalf of the E.U. that year likewise never mentioned the words “Jewish” or “Jews.” “Lady Ashton manages great feat in honor of Holocaust Day,” blogger Yisrael Medad noted. “She does away with the Jews.”
An Italian public opinion survey in January showed a doubling in the past two years, to 22 percent, of those who find Holocaust Commemoration Day “useless.” Respondents who said the day applied only to Jews remained constant at 16 percent. The percentage of those who knew what the event actually referred to declined from 54 to 44 percent, the Times of Israel reported.
After World War II and the destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis and their countless collaborators, those who declared “Never again!” imagined they heard an echo. But assertions to the effect that the Holocaust represented “man’s inhumanity to man” rather than, primarily, “man’s inhumanity to the Jews” amounted to historical hijacking.
Memory not only fades; without genuine connection to the present it misleads. In the present, the Jewish state is threatened with destruction. Its attempts at self-defense often are tarred as war crimes. Hence, Palestinian Arabs shot while stabbing Jews on Israeli streets may be assumed, as Sweden’s foreign minister suggested last month, to be victims of “extrajudicial killings.”
Speaking of Sweden, it’s been seven years since The Telegraph (U.K.) reported the flight of Jews from Malmo, the country’s third-largest city: “‘I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden, anyway,’ said Judith Popinski, a Holocaust survivor. Malmo’s Jews, however, do not just point the finger at bigoted Muslims and their fellow racists in the country’s neo-Nazi fringe. The also accuse Ilmar Reepalu, the left-wing mayor … of failing to protect them.” The mayor had said, The Telegraph paraphrased, “what the Jews perceive as naked antisemitism is in fact just a sad, but understandable consequence of Israeli policy in the Middle East.”
Der ‘Supreme Leader’
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s “supreme leader”—a title reminiscent of “der fuehrer”—offered his own Holocaust Day commemoration. Khamenei, whose antisemitism and hatred of the West entwine, posted a Commemoration Day video on his official Web site. Titled “Are the Dark Ages Over?” (not in his Iran, but never mind) it features a Farsi-speaking narrator, presumably the supreme leader himself: “No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust, while it is not clear whether the core of the matter is reality or not.” He adds, “even if it is reality, it is not clear how it happened.”
The video’s opening ties images of dead and wounded Palestinian children to scenes from the Holocaust. Somewhat contradictorily, though not in Khamenei Land, another Holocaust denial cartoon contest is set for June in Tehran, first prize $50,000. Political and military leaders of the Islamic Republic periodically reiterate calls for Israel’s annihilation and continue testing ballistic missiles whose purpose is to carry atomic warheads, last year’s nuclear deal notwithstanding. Their motto, some have observed, is “the Holocaust never happened and we mean to finish it.”
Ever since the Holocaust, incitement to genocide has been an international crime. Not that you’d know it from the United Nations, founded by the World War II Allies in no small measure to prevent future conflicts leading to mass murder. No action is taken against Iran on this score—Brookings Institution’s Suzanne Maloney notes the post-nuclear deal rush of Western businesses to Iran, even as the ayatollahs disqualify “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani’s allies from the next election. Worse, U.N. actions excuse or encourage killing of Jews.
Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, noted that on January 26, just ahead of Holocaust Commemoration Day, the U.N. Security Council held a debate on “‘The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.’ The hate speech against the Jewish state flowed uninterrupted for seven hours and was broadcast around the world. Israel was said to be guilty of “crimes against humanity,” “execution” of children, “apartheid,” “racism,” “brutality,” “terrorism,” “war crimes,” “assassinations,” “torture of children,” and “Judaization”—the allegedly vile presence of Jews on Arab-claimed territory.
“Downstairs, the Holocaust exhibit recounted how ordinary people did nothing while their neighbors were rounded up with cries of ‘Juden, Juden, Juden.’”
The weekend before Holocaust Commemoration Day, about 200 demonstrators—rioters would be more accurate—forcibly shut down a reception for Israeli gay rights activists at the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference in Chicago. Anti-Zionists deride factual references to Israel as the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East as “pink-washing.” The rioters shouted epithets like “kike.” Even without “Juden, Juden, Juden” they made plain their combined anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hatred.
The Jewish Self-Defense Question
On Commemoration Day, Barack Obama gave the first speech by a U.S. president at the Israeli embassy. He warned of rising antisemitism internationally and stressed America’s commitment to Israel. But as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported “Obama appealed for universal tolerance; [Israeli Ambassador Ron] Dermer heralded the triumph of Jewish self-defense.”
That was just before news broke that U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies have been hacking into Israeli fighter plane and drone video feeds for 18 years, in part looking for signs Israel might attack Iran. And it was just before the Obama administration reminded U.S. businesses that goods imported from Jewish communities in the West Bank should not be labeled as Israeli-made. Jerusalem fears this step complements similar E.U. labeling requirements, the latter a tilt toward anti-Israel boycotters. Commemorative, you might say, since Holocaust remembrance may lead one to recall a boycott in the 1930s: First, German Jews weren’t allowed to do business. Then they weren’t allowed to live.
Holocaust Commemoration Day brought observations by several survivors and relatives of victims, Anne Frank’s step-sister among them, that anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians in the West—including Donald Trump—echo for them Adolf Hitler’s threats against minorities. In 2009, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, executive vice president of her father’s companies, underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism, took the name Yael, and lives what she describes as a “pretty observant” life with real estate developer Jared Kushner and their two children.
That doesn’t necessarily make Donald Trump’s immigration views kosher. But, as Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin pointed out in their 1983 best-seller, Why The Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism, since 1945 a red-green (leftist-Islamist) anti-Israel, anti-Jewish alliance of convenience has replaced the 1930s’ red-black (Communist-Nazi) antisemitic front.
Manfred Gerstenfeld, in his 2009 book The Abuse of Holocaust Memory, warned not only of Holocaust denial but also justification, deflection, whitewashing, de-Judaization, equivalence, trivialization and inversion—as in the “Palestinians-as-Jews, Israelis-as-Nazis” shell game. Any of it contributes to obliterating Holocaust memory, he noted.
Erasing Jews from Holocaust memory is precursor to erasing Jews and their state.
The author is Washington director of CAMERA, the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own. His 2014 poem, “The New Storm Troopers,” can be found at www.newenglishreview.org.