Josef Olmert

International Holocaust Day: Personal Reflections

The Holocaust and its legacy has always been one of the most important formative events of my being as a Jew, as a Zionist, as a human being. Not much different I guess from so many of my age-group, and definitely not different from all those, who like me, got their ideological inspiration in the Beitar youth movement and the Herut party, where we were always told that the Germans are the modern day Amaleks.

I do not belong to a family of survivors, as my two parents came from China, from the city of Harbin, where until the Communist Revolution in 1949 there was a thriving Jewish community, whose full history as well as its contribution to the establishment of the state of Israel are yet to be fully told and acknowledged.

But I am a member of the big Jewish family, so I have always felt so much connected to all that happened, still possessing a considerable amount of Holocaust movies, and still feeling how special some days are, like today, also the official Jewish Holocaust memorial day and the 19 April anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, this epoc of unbelievable Jewish bravery. I am always reminding myself of the unforgettable last words of Mordechai Anilewicz at the bunker in Mila 18, ”I am dying happy, as my life dream was fulfilled, and the Jews fight back”[hope this is as close as possible to what were his exact words].It is with this in mind, that I share some of my very personal reflections
with my loyal readers[I hope there are some…].

Zionism is about Zion, about Jerusalem, the Land of Israel, the 3000 years of inseparable connection between Jews and their homeland, about the revival of our national language, about the reestablishment of our national sovereignty, about the ingathering of the exiles of Zion, about also the 2284 times that Jerusalem and Zion are mentioned in the Bible, many of which when these names refer to the entire Land of Israel.

So, Zionism is an historic and religious truth which stands on its own feet, not a political movement, whose roots are connected to other manifestations of ethnic nationalism emerging in late 19-century Europe, and as such similar to many of those movements, which became colonialist on the expense of indigenous people, among others the Palestinians.

The Holocaust is NOT the only and most important justification for the idea of Jewish statehood.

3000 YEARS of living in Zion and dreaming about it ARE the indisputable realization of Jewish national rights, of Zion.

Today is a day to remind ourselves of all that, as well as to those in the world who are open-minded enough to hear that.

The need to emphasize this point is exactly because, there is NO natural, spontaneous understanding in large parts of world public opinion that the Jews deserve their statehood like every other nation does[and also the Palestinians, only as a consequence of an historic compromise], and not because they were exterminated in Europe and being compensated in” Palestine”.

The Holocaust for us is a reminder , tragic but not unique in our history, that our existence in the world is not to be taken for granted.

We had other Holocausts, whether it was during the Crusades in Europe, a period immortalized by Saul Tschernichovski’s Baruch from Magentza poem, the Ukrainian 1648-9 catastrophe, and smaller ones before and after.

From a Jewish perspective, the Holocaust proved the loss of our people when global circumstances were such, that we could not exert our independence in Zion, but it did not create the justification for a homeland in Zion.

The prevailing sense for many non-Jews, whose numbers are ever swelling is, that if the Holocaust was to be portrayed as YET ANOTHER event of tragic, but not unusual proportions, then the Jews lose their claim to the land they call Zion, which so many others call Palestine.

Holocaust denial and banality of the Holocaust have become
an argument and tool in the hands of those who resist our basic national rights.

This is something to remember and understand exactly today of all days.

B] Banality of the Holocaust;
The famous philosopher/political scientist Hannah Arendt , an anti-Zionist, was present at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, later publishing the book which became iconic for many who recognized the Holocaust, yet tried to give it an interpretation which was directly aimed at neutralizing the Holocaust and its implications from anything that could be used to justify the Zionist narrative.

This was Eichmann in Jerusalem; A report on the banality of evil[New York, 1963]. This seminal book was in for much praise, also criticism, though more of the former than that of the latter, and only fairly recently was really put in its right place by historians and writers who simply tore apart this thesis, people like Yaacov Lozowick from Yad Vashem, and recently Ron Rosenbaum, in his article at the Slate, 30 October 2009, referring to the troubling revelations about the full extent of the connections between Arendt [1906-1975], and the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger[1889-1976], which were not just ”personal”, as was known already. According to Rosenbaum who based his arguments on the essay by the famous historian Bernard Wasserstein who cited “scandalous use of quotes from anti-Semitic and Nazi authorities” by Arendt in her other famous book, Totalitarianism.

So, according to Rosenbaum, Arendt really espoused the ”evil of banality”, but, I believe that she did it with the intention of using even the Holocaust against Zionism.

Old nonsense die hard, and Arendt’s example was followed by so many others in the anti-Zionist Left Wing, for example Noam Chomski, one of the gurus of the Left who wrote an introduction to the first-ever approved Holocaust-denial thesis by a European ”SCHOLAR”, The Frenchman
Robert Faurisson [1929-], A thesis that the University of Lyon, which initially approved, later revoked and disregarded. I asked Chomski in a TV debate which we both had on TV Ontario in Canada in December 1985 about that, and the answer was that he wrote it as a gesture of support for the right of free expression, something that was denied Faurisson.

He then confirmed to me that he would not have written such an introduction to a book by Rabbi Meir Kahane espousing his racist views, because ”it was not the same”…[and I do NOT compare Kahane to Faurisson].

Faurisson was present in the Ahmadinejad Holocaust -denial conference, alongside the likes of David Duke. No problem to Chomski, who supports Iran’s nuclear program.

No problem also for some who represents a new genre of Holocaust-belittlement.

Norman Davis, a famous British historian of WW2 Poland spreads the notion that 6 million Poles were murdered in the war, 3 million were Polish Catholics, 3 million were Polish Jews, and so goes on the ”good” professor, only two groups really had an interest in distinguishing between Jews and Catholics; The Nazis and their supporters who took pride in eliminating the Jews as a distinct group, but not the Poles , who were victims of the circumstances of the war and latter occupation, and the Zionists, who else… surely, because the Zionists wanted to use the killing of Jews for their sinister purposes.

Gunther Grass, the famous German Left-Wing writer, a Noble Laureate , who until some years ago hid his service in the Waffen SS, which lasted to the last day of the war, would have you believe, that the circumstances of the end of WW2 were such, that the German people suffered SO much, well, so did the Jews, Grass is not a classic Holocaust denier, but then, do not you Jews play it up too much…

You suffered, others did as well, and to me a classic case of the banality of the Holocaust.

This is Another version of Holocaust revisionism, the attempt to belittle the Holocaust and its uniqueness. Needless to remind our readers, that Grass is anti-Israel,and published a poem some time ago, condemning German military support to ”BELLIGERENT” Israel.

Well, just some of my very personal thoughts in this special day.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina
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