Emanuel Shahaf

The greatest Shoah on earth

Our restless Minister of Education has just come up with another one of his initiatives – increase the amount of time that high-school students are taught about the Holocaust. Teachers must now devote even more than 30% of history lessons to the Shoah, the proportion presently allocated to teaching the Holocaust and related subjects. The one subject in the educational system that already receives a disproportionate amount of attention will now get even more of it.

After getting systematically indoctrinated, or better yet, brainwashed from Kindergarten onwards, children and youngsters will now get even more of an appropriately reinforced dose of concentrated Shoah during their high school years. In conjunction with the obligatory concentration camp immersion during the school trips to Poland, this is a perfectly timed tour-de-force to release them into army service and adulthood as consummate victims. By the time they graduate they will certainly have internalized that everybody else out there who isn’t us, is likely to be the enemy and out to get us. Needless to say, that wouldn’t occur to them just by living here and looking around and watching TV, it’s definitely an impression that must be strengthened from early childhood onwards…

It’s also a wonderful primer for the pervasive racism which has taken hold of Israel. No, we probably are not more racist than others but despite the emphasis on teaching the Shoah, the one critical question that is never ever addressed in Israel is what we as a people must internalize as a central lesson of the Shoah, other than the need to be more powerful than anybody else in our vicinity. Now what could that be?

Our students know nothing (and will know nothing) about the Armenian Genocide in 1915 which annihilated between one and one and a half million Armenians, nor will they hear or read about the wholesale butchery of 10 Million blacks by the Belgians in the Congo in the 19th century or about the slaughter of the Herreros by the Germans in Namibia in 1904. They won’t hear about the massive decimation of Indians by the British while they were colonizers there, nor about the Rwandan Genocide or that in Cambodia or in East Timor and I might even have missed a few.

No, our kids won’t hear about these events because there is just so little time until graduation and so much to learn about our own, one of a kind Shoah. We don’t want to burden them with the sad history of others,  coincidentally not Jews but nevertheless, mere human beings.  No, we need to spend every possible moment of time available to learn about our very own genocide, the one that is so special to us because it’s our’s: No doubt it’s the biggest and greatest Shoah on earth, ever. Even if that’s not exactly true, actually it is not true at all. The truth? It’s part of our very own not so subtle genocide denial. If it’s not our’s, it doesn’t exist.

And what’s the reason we don’t teach about other genocides, other than the lack of time, of course? Very simple, we don’t teach about other genocides because it would take attention away form our own Shoah and it would mean that there are other people that were victimized, just like the Jews. Can anybody imagine that there could be others out there, victimized, possibly even more than us?

We just have to make sure that nobody raises any doubts that our own victimhood far surpasses that of other victims. We must always be certain that our suffering was worse, that we were more abandoned than the other victims of genocide and we had even less support of others out there who saw the suffering.

Amazingly enough, for Israel, the most powerful nation in the Middle East, the supremacy of our own victimhood has become a central tenet of our being and permits us, again and again, to victimize others with relative ease. And it impedes on our ability to emphathize with others and their victimhood. Empathizing would imply recognition of the victimhood of others and where could that lead us?

It’s one thing to teach and commemorate an event that has had a devastating impact on the Jewish people, helped to create the State of Israel and left a permanent blemish on the world at large, an event that has left indelible wounds among many of us. It’s another thing altogether to turn the event into an engine that drives fear and xenophobia, reinforces our national post traumatic stress disorder to the detriment of the country, its people and the whole region and does absolutely nothing whatsoever to help us find our place among the nations of the Middle East.

Full disclosure: My late father spent 10 years cumulative in German prisons and concentration camps and lost his family there.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".