Among the Many Betrayals

Much has already been written about the deep sense of betrayal many of us feel about those we expected to be standing with us since Oct 7. Here’s one example among many too numerous to recount.

I’ve long been a great fan of Pankaj Mishra, who has been one of my go to writers for attempts to understand the perspective of the ‘brown’ post-colonial world. Sadly, his eager entry into the English literary elite class has led to a different kind of underlying orientation, one possible only to a former colonial.

In a recent piece in the London Review of Books, he joins the chorus of virtue-signalling purveyors of false accusations. His brilliant collection of half-truths and deliberate omissions cannot be refuted in this kind of simple post. Suffice to mention his complete ignoring of 1) the fact that over half the Jewish population of Israel is itself ‘brown’, and refugees of various kinds from once-ancient communities in what are now fully Judenrein Arab and other MENA countries; 2) the geopolitical reality of Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah; 3) the deracination and ‘universalization’ of Shoah remembrance which leads to the ‘disinviting’ of actual Jewish survivors from official remembrance ceremonies in more than one country; 5) the fact that almost all the institutions of social justice he names, and the very coining of the notions and terms ‘genocide’ and ‘human rights’, were made by Jewish Holocaust survivors in the (mistaken) belief that further atrocities might thereby be avoided. The list goes on and on.

The historical parallels with India/Pakistan are instructive, most especially in the legacy of British colonial ‘arm both sides and then let them go at each other’ racist policies. But Mishra conveniently omits the vast mutual transfers of population (estimates up to 14 million) that occurred as the birth pangs of Partition to create the modern post-colonial states, and the bloody massacres where up to 2 million murdered each other. A brief nod to Hindu Nationalism misses the wider picture, and conveniently (and revealingly) leaves corresponding Muslim actions out of the narrative.

There is a very long history of appropriation of originally Jewish narrative for ultimately anti-Jewish purposes — the most notable and influential being the Roman adoption of the once-Jewish sect of Christianity, the sack of Jerusalem (‘Zion’) and the concomitant renaming of Judea as ‘Palestina’, the supercessionist doctrine of the ‘New’ supplanting the ‘Old’ bible, and the succeeding 2000 years of anti-Jewish massacres and expulsions. The latest iteration is to cast the only Jewish state in the world — created via a sovereignty movement that far predated the Shoah by survivors of 2000 years of European persecution and peopled by refugees from Arab as well as European discrimination and persecution — as the epitome of global European colonialism. The utter hypocrisy and inversion by those in the EU countries, the descendants of two millennia of viewing the Jews as ‘Oriental’ Other suddenly miraculously transmogrified into ‘white’ colonizers, in this activity is especially galling. It’s the long pattern of blaming the Jews for our own victimization. And for our unforgivable ‘stiff-necked’ chutzpah in persisting to survive against all odds.

Everyone uses the Shoah for their own purposes; as an immediate inheritor of the agony of the reality, I can tell you that no one has ever given two minutes of real time to the actual survivors or their descendants. Except to profess love and concern for those Jews who are dead; the inconvenient living, not so much.

Mishra is a more-skillful-than-most recent practitioner of a well-worn strategy. One doesn’t have to be a Likud supporter or apologist — and I’m certainly neither — to appropriate and misuse the Shoah.

We’re seeing it in action every day in all those history-inverting mass demonstrations around the world.

About the Author
Kitty Hoffman's award-winning writing has appeared in literary anthologies and journals including The New Quarterly, Boulevard, The Commons, and Prism. A spiritual director in Montreal, she is in the final year of rabbinical studies and working on a book of literary nonfiction about her medieval ancestor, the father of European kabbalah, and the weight of her Holocaust legacy. More info at
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