Some reflections on the 47th Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the 5th World Holocaust Forum
The West Mourns the Jewish Dead-But What About the Living?
Assuming, for sake of argument only, that the West does mourn the victims of the Holocaust, this is the timely and pressing question recently raised by Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author.
This section addresses this question.
For the impatient reader, regrettably my answer to the question is:
First, nothing much for the living besides symbolic gestures of no consequence and nothing much of any import;
Second, let alone the lessons of the Holocaust, insofar as the problems of anti-Semitism and the reputation ,good standing and more importantly the security of Jews and Israel are concerned, Europe refuses to learn the lessons from the past for short term gains and refuses to take pro-active measures to deter anti-Semitism and preventative measures to avoid the repetition of past mistakes against Jews and Israel.
Third, history provides ample evidence over centuries that when countries are embroiled in major internal conflicts as the evidence appears to suggest will soon the become the case in Sweden, Germany and France, the Jews invariably pay for the sins of the rest.
Finally, in order to survive, prosper and continue to be a light unto the nations, the Jewish people and Israel must proceed on the assumption that they must fight the good fight or fights and win on their own resources and, I might add, as Ben-Gurion once observed, believe in miracles.
An Italian sociologist once observed that history is the cemetery of civilisations. The Jewish people’s avocation is to watch over the cemetery rather than be buried in it.
I suspect that this very avocation goes to the root of anti-Semitism.
In fact, I verily believe that anti-Semitism is a wholly incurable mental disease. Ironically though, unlike every other such disease, whether mental or physical, this one makes the patients feel better by affording them with the opportunity to express their existential frustration, hostility and anger on a minority group that historically seems to get on the nerves of a sizeable segment every nation or a powerful segment of it for one reason or another.
While nations may condemn anti-Semitism, save exceptional situations or where criminality is involved, those who express it and act on it are not the worse for ware,
Then, what about the living now?
The Christian victims of genocide
There appears to be a fair deal of evidence that indicates that Christians living outside Europe, North and South America, and estimated to number over 200 million people are the most persecuted group in the world. For example, in Africa they have been and continue to be subject to pogroms by installment in a number of countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and others.
Interestingly, to date, to my knowledge no Western country has addressed this serious problem and made it the focus of its refugee and migration plans.
Ironically enough, just recently, Femi Fani-Kayode, Nigeria’s former Minister of Culture and Tourism, stated that former President Obama funded and supported the 2015 election of former President Buhari well as helping Boko Haram during 2014-2015, and that the blood of all those killed by the Buhari administration, his Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram over the last five years are on the hands of Obama, John Kerry and Hilary Clinton.
I am not suggesting that the West ought to do that to the detriment of other deserving refugees and migrants of other religions, However, I would have thought that there would be a serious and sustained attempt to have a better balanced intake policy than the one that has been fashionable since the latest 2015 for example, in Germany and Sweden
In this regard, I cannot help but wonder whether the Europeans don’t care too much about Black refugees. It is one thing to pontificate and fight racism orally, and something else to give refuge to the Black Africans.
Hence, the question that comes to mind is: if these countries do not care enough for the plight of members of their own religion, how much would they and do they actually care about protecting their Jewish citizens or the Israelis against those who propose to decimate them?
I verily believe that the answer is: not much, if at all. And if they do care, the way they act as a result of it, leaves a good deal to be desired .For example, Chancellor Merkel ignored the reports of the state intelligence apparatus to the effect that the Muslim refugees on their way to Germany were hostile to Jews. By proceeding to let in over one million of them into the country, by implication she accepted the prospect that the Jewish community may well become collateral damage.
The usefulness and effectiveness of the 5th Forum
Going back to the proceedings at the 5th. Forum–I think that it is high time to question and challenge the usefulness and effectiveness of the Forum with respect to its dual mission to remind and educate the world about the Holocaust and to promote and sustain the fight against anti-Semitism.
What were the lessons of the Holocaust addressed and presumably learned by the leaders of the countries attending the Forum for the purpose of fighting contemporary anti-Semitism on behalf of the living?
The Forum as a burlesque vaudeville
Recently, the Forum has been described as having an increasing element of the burlesque where problems are addressed but never solved.
I think the Forum can also be described as an unsavoury vaudeville performed by characters such as Putin, Macron, the King of Belgium, Prince of Wales, not to mention the shameless Swedish Prime Minister.
In the case of the Swedish Prime Minister, Professor Milliere informs us that Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden, had a Jewish community that lived there peacefully for over a century. Since 2015 while the government of this Prime Minister sat on its hands and watched much of the community to flee after Muslim immigrants arrived and acts of anti-Jewish harassment became widespread.
Yet, the Prime Minister was permitted to attend the Forum without volunteering or being required to tender a public apology for failing to discharge the government’s supreme constitutional duty to protect and keep safe its Jewish citizens, the Jewish community as a whole and its institutions.
Unfortunately, Sweden’s case is by no means an exceptional one. The fact of the matter is that where Jewish citizens are concerned, the breach of the European governments’ duty to protect and insure the safety of their citizens particularly those who are members of minorities is pathetic.
Concerning the Holocaust
Clearly, to date, the Forum has been, at best, marginally successful in its stated mission. As I pointed in Section IIIIA, it has failed to achieve its principal objectives; politicised the subject and ultimately turned into to a diplomatic zoo of a bunch of high profile politicians representing different countries who upon their return to their respective countries,
a) Fail to set for themselves any noteworthy goals with concrete and measurable results on the subjects of the memory of the Holocaust;
b) in the unlikely event they purportedly set themselves such concrete and measurable goals, they either fail to do the work necessary to achieve them ,or
c) Worse still, they initiate regressive policies such as whitewashing their own country’s sordid involvement in the Holocaust that defeats one of the two key objectives of the Forum.
By way of an example for the last point, despite the fact that Poland hosted the Forum, not once but on two occasions, its government is still engaged in writing a revisionist history of the abominable role the country played with respect to its Jewish population vis-a vis the Germans during the German occupation and to the treatment of the survivors who came back to live in Poland after the retreat of the German army.
Similar attempts to re-write history have been and continue to be ongoing in a number of Baltic countries, as it is currently the case in Lithuania.
The linking the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism
To begin with, to premise that the memory and lessons of the Holocaust ought to or makes us fight antisemitism does not make much sense and it is in fact inconsistent with the present realities which appear to be also those of the foreseeable future.
First, as it has already been pointed out antisemitism is not specific to the Holocaust. As a matter of fact, it predates the Holocaust, conservatively, by some 17 centuries and post-dates it to the present since the end of the Holocaust
Second, it does not make sense to demand the state to protect its Jewish citizens and inhabitants by reason of the fact that Jewish people experienced the Holocaust. What if the Jewish people had not experienced the Holocaust?
Surely, it is the first raison-d’etre and paramount duty of the State, to insure the security and safety of its citizens and lawful inhabitants and protect their rights against the state and other citizens. And contrary to common parlance this is not a matter of tolerance of diversity, for the term tolerance itself amounts to trivialising the duties to protect and to respect of rights into matter benevolence.
Third, the current realities are far different than those of the period starting with the Germans signing the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, going through the Depression, the ascension of Hitler to power and World War II.
What is being currently threatened is the integrity and survival of the European society in the light of
a) the rate and volume of the intake of refugees and migrants by the key and other member states of the E.U;
b)the resulting division of the incoming and receiving populations into two segments with conflicting religious beliefs, social, cultural and political values and practices and aims and objectives for the future of these states;
c) the neglect, inability and failure of these states to manage the resulting societal conflicts which among other things resulted, in a speedy increase of anti-Semitic incidents and crimes, among others committed by both those opposing the governments’ immigration policies and those who oppose these policies by reason of their xenophobia and racism not only against the newcomers but also other minorities in the countries, and particularly the Jews..
In the premises, violence against the Jewish minorities will be the by-products of
a) the failure of these states to address urgently, forcefully and effectively, if it is already not too late, the critically serious national problems at hand such as those caused by the extremist Muslims, extreme-right parties and the neo-Nazi or other fascist movements, left wingers and anti-Semites at large, and
b) Ultimately, the disintegration of these societies which is being anticipated not by sensationalists but sober informed political analysts.
Linking the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons to the fight against anti-Semitism
I submit that it is counter-productive to link the memory and the lessons of the Holocaust to the fight against anti-Semitism on at least two grounds.
First ground: Historical Christian anti-Semitism and persecution
At the latest, anti-Semitism was triggered by the strong Jewish resistance to Hellenisation, which in turn generated a virulent Greek anti-Semitism which survives to date. As a matter of fact, the last time I looked in to the matter a few years ago, Greece had the highest rate of anti-Semitism among members of the E.U- over 70% of the respondents to a survey. And given the nature of the disease, I very much doubt that the curb somehow flattened since then.
Anti-Semitism became part of the DNA of Christians starting with the formal establishment of the Church. To the best of my knowledge, in Europe it was not formally acknowledged and repudiated for the first time in 1938 when the Most Rev. William Temple, Archbishop of York and Primate of England, and other leading members of the Church of England clergy and laity formally repudiated anti-Semitism or any form of racial discrimination in the name of “the vast majority of Christian English people.”
And after the war , the Roman Catholic Church moved in the same direction during the incumbency of Pope John Paul XXIII and his successors by clearing the Jews from the false accusation of killing Jesus, the excision of offensive rites followed by the prohibition to seek to convert them.
Similar pronouncements concerning anti-Semitism originated from the Lutheran Church of Germany and that of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in 1994.
In 2019, the Church of England in an effort to promote a new Christian –Jewish relationship published “God’s Unfailing Word”- its first authoritative statement on the part played by Christians in the stereotyping of Jews. The document demands that Christians must repent for centuries of antisemitism which ultimately led to the Holocaust.
Personally, I submit that even if the Ministry and the congregations of the old established branches of Christianity that persecuted Jews were to commence every Church service for the next 16 centuries with a mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa maxima followed by a prayer seeking G-d’s forgiveness for the way the Church treated the Jews and conclude the service by repeating the three mea culpas, the anti-Semitism emanating from these congregations would be still alive and well, as it is at present albeit its causes would be and in fact are different.
Hence, present- day European anti-Semitism in a large measure is no longer rooted in the previous theological dogma and/or teachings of Christianity. Instead, it originates, among other places; from extreme right and left wing ideologies and neo- Nazi or other fascist movements; international diplomacy; the imputation of the alleged reprehensible policies of the State of Israel and the Nazi-like behaviour of the IDF to the Diaspora Jews which on such occasions also revive some of the traditional anti-Semitic libels.
A perfect illustration of the new type of anti-Semitism is provided by Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the British Labour Party and his anti-Semitic disciples in the party that support Hamas and condemn Israel.
So much for the Church of England’s pronouncements in 2019.
Based on the evidence to date, clearly pairing the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism has been unproductive for a number of reasons among which, the following two, readily occurs to me:
First, in Germany, a survey conducted by the polling Institute Infratest for the Deutsche Welle news agency published on the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day this year disclosed that 37% percent of all the respondents said that it was time to cease browbeating about the Holocaust. This indicates a steady strengthening of this feeling from 26% in 2018 to 33% in 2019.
A second poll conducted simultaneously with the first by the Yougov Institute for the German news agency dpa. published at the same time, disclosed that about 1 in 5 Germans think the Holocaust gets too much attention.
The immediately preceding finding comes within about one percentile point of the results disclosed by a survey titled “ Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews” conducted by the ADL and published on January 29.
More specifically, the survey disclosed that almost one fifth of Americans (nearly 19%) believe that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust’ while 14% of the respondents believe that Israel “behaves as badly as the Nazis”.
Second, although taken separately these two percentages are not high, taken together they reinforce one another.
Further and needless to say, these percentages would have been be much higher if the survey had focused on those segments of society which are more likely to engage in anti-Semitic behaviour.
Except for the Heads of states and governments who engage in play-acting, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day discussion of Holocaust summons a reflective somber state of mind and thinking affected by strong emotions about matters past about which nothing can be done, save to inspire people to teach or learn the lessons to be drawn from the Holocaust.
For most heads of state or government and even more so, for people at large the lessons have no urgency as not many think about or expect the repetition of the Holocaust within a foreseeable future, if ever.
And once the time frame goes beyond the foreseeable future, both human nature being what it is both the lessons of the Holocaust and the issues raised by these lessons lose their urgency and most people lose interest in the subject matter.
Fourth ground: The governing elites and the lessons of history
This in turn raises the key issue as to whether the governing elites care about, learn from and heed the lessons of history?
I submit that the historical evidence available to date imposes a negative answer. Indeed evidence provides an abundance of examples from which I propose to present the following three lessons which are particularly relevant to the matters under consideration.
First lesson: From World War I to World War II
The countries that fought in World War I went through hell and suffered immense human and material losses. Barely 25 years later, confronted with Hitler’s evil designs would do all within their collective power would cut him at the pass right and quick the prevent Germany from starting the second world war.
They did not learn their lesson from World War I and the rest is history.
Second lesson: World War II and the atomic bomb
The United States committed not one but two horrendous crimes against humanity when it bombed the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the purpose of bringing Japan to its knees. Yet, the world did not prevent the rogue state North Korea not only to acquire the bomb and subsequently assist at least one country Iran to do the same. Same story with France, China, India, Pakistan and the USSR.
No one learned the lesson.
Third lesson: What is the difference between Hitler and the Ayatollahs?
What is the difference between Hitler and Iran’s Ayatollahs who clearly and repeatedly state their intention to destroy Israel? I would have thought none.
Yet to date, the E.U countries have not bothered to deter and prevent the fanatical terrorist State of Iran from acquiring its own bomb as well as atomic warheads.
.Instead, the E.U, led by Macron and more particularly Merkel, has done everything within their power to undermine President Trump’s initiatives to pre-empt Iran’s genocidal intentions, by seriously undermining the American trade blockade. .
Decidedly, the European governments are very hard, if not impossible, to teach even just three lessons of history.
Ironically enough, what are we to make of Europe’s obsession with imposing the two state solutions to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, while at the same assisting or minimally not deterring Iran from building the bomb with which he intends to destroy one of the two states?
Fourth Lesson: Arab anti-Semitism
Professor Guy Milliere recently pointed out that ”… anti-Semitism in the Arab world…has taken root in the body politic of Islam to an unprecedented degree” and “ if seven decades ago, the existence of the new State of Israel had depended on the countries represented this year in Jerusalem …the [Israel’s] war [of Independence] would effectively have been a second Holocaust”.
Obviously, what was true seven decades ago, remains true at present: The E.U countries ignore Iran’s terrorist activities and its branches in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza and being indiscriminately supportive of the P.A., can hardly be said to actually care about protecting Israel’s security and the safety of Israelis’ (including its Palestinian and against the genocidal intentions of Iran any more than they did protect their Jewish citizens during World War II.
Hence, it is not surprising that none of the representatives at the 5th Forum, raised, let alone address, the serious problem of Muslim anti-Semitism both abroad and at home.
And, if in the light of the recent positive developments in the relations between Israel and the Gulf countries, you are inclined think or you are hopeful that this is going to change things, think again.
Since the end of the 5th Forum, the authorities at Al-Azhar University associated with the Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo accepted as the or a Sunni Islam center of theological authority (depending on whose viewpoint is adopted) , nixed the idea of the reform of Islam.
Conclusions about the Forum’s current approach to fighting anti-Semitism
In the premises, I submit that the formula of periodically holding the Forum in order to keep sermonising the participating heads of state or governments and, hopefully although most unlikely, through them their countrymen to remember the lessons of the Holocaust, is simply nonsensical and wholly ineffective to fight anti-Semitism in the Western world, let alone in countries with Muslim majorities.
It is high time to move on to a different strategy .to fight anti-Semitism in the Western world let alone the countries where the Muslim population is the dominant one.
An alternative approach by the Forum
The question than arises as to whether the Forum’s current formula of gathering and addressing the heads of states and governments only about anti-Semitism would produce more efficacious results?
I submit that this question must also be answered in the negative. I propose to demonstrate my answer with a hypothetical experiment.
Fighting anti-Semitism-The hypothetical experiment
I submit that fighting anti-Semitism demands an urgent, in-your- face set of mind accompanied by direct and blunt questions that demand unequivocal answers, plans of actions and require positive results.
Let’s suppose, that the organisers of the Forum decide to pursue its twin mandate in accordance with the kind of approach I proposed.
Towards this end, the organisation decides to hold two distinct and separate annual gatherings: the first dedicated to the memory Holocaust and the second, consecrated to fighting anti-Semitism. (“ASMF”)
In effect, the unstated motto for the latter Forum would be something like: “Put your money where your mouth is”.
ASMF would be open to all governments which claim to be concerned with anti-Semitism in their country and wish to address it.
Instead of being invited to give the kind of “diplo- soporific” speeches given at the Fifth Forum, ASMF will require the guests to participate and contribute to the discussions of specific topics put forth by the organisers with priority being given to the ones submitted by the participants themselves ahead of the Forum.
The protocol of the discussions will require each of the participating countries who wish to secure the input of the others to one or more specific types of problems encountered in fighting anti-Semitism in their respective countries, to make a presentation and then moderate the ensuing discussion.
At the end of the first annual forum, among other things, every participating country would be required to submit a written set of precisely described policies, practices, or other measures, where appropriate, whose anticipated impact will be measurable, which the country undertakes to formulate and apply during the coming year.
In preparation for the following Forum, each country would submit and distribute ahead of time a report describing precisely which of the proposed
a)policies, practices and other measures were actually carried out or implemented; the details concerning each including their respective outcomes to date; and
b) policies etc. have not been implemented and the reason(s) for the failure to do so.
These reports would be discussed using the same or a similar methodology as that used in the first Forum.
At the conclusion of the third Forum and the subsequent ones the countries that fail to meet their written commitments made at the conclusion of the two immediately preceding ones, without a justifiable reason, will be politely dis-invited from attending the subsequent ones.
I entertain no doubt whatsoever that if the countries are informed of the preceding rule, the Forum would
a) never get off the ground or at best would not get past the second year, the latest, and
b) the number of countries attending the Forum would amount to a fraction of those who attended the 5th
But then again, what’s the point of having governments talking the talk but failing, or worse, still refusing to walk the walk.
What then is and can be done for the living then? Concluding observations and suggestions
This brings us back to the original question: What can the living do to fight anti-Semitism, in Europe?
One such initiative was recently announced by the European Jewish Association at its annual meeting titled “Jews in Europe: United for a Better Future” held in Paris on January 24-25.
On the occasion of the meeting, the participants were provided with the results of a recent poll conducted by the Hungary-based Action and Protection League from December 19 to January 2020, focused on the feelings of 16,000 adult respondents in 16 countries across Europe about Jews.
The poll with an unusually small margin of error (0.8%) instead of the more or less standard 2 or 3%) disclosed that
a) 56% either “strongly agreed or agreed” with the statement that “it’s always better to be a little cautious with Jews”;
b) 51% of the respondents “agreed” with the statement that: “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals.”
c) 39% agreed with the statement that “There is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs.”
d) 34% said that “people in their nation suffered as much as the Jews during World War II”, and
e) 24% “strongly disagree” or “tend to disagree” that it is good for a country if many Jews live there.
On the subject of opinions about Israel
a) 25% “strongly disagreed” and “tended to disagree” that Israel is engaged in legitimate self-defence against its enemies;
b) 25% said that when they think of Israel’s politics, they understand that why some people hate Jews;
c) 24% equated Israelis to Nazis in their behaviour towards Palestinians;
d) Almost 25% “equated” Israelis to Nazis, and
e) 24% said that the kind of treatment described in the immediately preceding para. (d) justifies an international boycott.
The deliberations of the association -some 250 participants including Jewish and European community and governmental leaders concluded with the presentation of, yes, yet another plan, not merely to fight anti-Semitism with some success but “to beat it”,.
The main thrusts of the new plan are:
- The appointment of a special envoy on combating anti-Semitism to every European country.
- To have every European country to adopt and implement the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism.
It needs to be noted that the definition is not legally binding on the governments that adopt it. Based on what has transpired since various countries adopted this definition, there is no evidence that this has helped the fight against anti-Semitism.
- To mandate schools to include lessons on anti-Semitism.
I addressed this subject in a previous section.
- To work with and/or lobby the European legislators to punish those who foment anti-Semitism.
Assuming the legislators genuinely want to help their Jewish constituents and those at large, surely, they cannot be expected to do that when the legislator’s chances of getting elected or re-elected and/or the chances of the party to which the legislator belongs, to become the government or to be re-elected to continue governing depend on capturing the support of voters whose views correspond to those of the 1600 people reported above..
Legislators obviously cannot punish citizens .Furthermore, even if the government were to agree to use its majority in Parliament to enact a legislation for that purpose, the effectiveness of the legislation will ultimately depend on the manner in which the police forces apply and enforce the various provisions of the legislation and ultimately the courts interpret them and assess the relative seriousness of the provisions in issue?
- (According to one source) Pass on the responsibility to fight anti-Semitism to the European governments.
The Association need not pass the responsibility to the government, when the government is, as a matter of fundamental or constitutional law, already obligated to protect all of its citizens, , but first and foremost to insure their safety against hate crimes or for that matter any crime. It can only call the government to task for not performing its obligations.
The Association’s new plan raises the question as to what is the Association planning to do about the fact that to date, the E.U. governments keep failing to discharge their responsibilities to the Jewish citizens?
With all due respect, this plan is a new variation on the same old schemes and I regret to say I do not think this plan will deliver the goods.Nevertheless,as a Jew, I am duty bound to wish it all the success.
Then again, the Jewish organising leaders of the conference cannot be accused of lack of optimism.At the plan’s unveiling the association Chairman Rabbi Mechamne Margolin, is reported to have said: “If the plan is implemented in Europe, there is no doubt in my mind that the situation will get better and better”…and that “he is optimistic in the Jewish future because he has seen growing interest in Jewish people who are open to learning about their roots.”
The meeting was held in the “European Centre of Judaism”, built at the cost of $11 million dollars, funded in part by the French government, which opened in 2019.It also serves as a synagogue and community centre.
With respect the building, Rabbi Margolin is reported to have said that “this new building exuded self-confidence and made him hopeful for the future of Jews in France.” The entrance to the building is shielded by two sets of doors made of thick, bulletproof glass.
Clearly, putting and keeping a police officer at the elbow of every potential or suspected extremist or terrorist to prevent anti-Semitic incidents is not a viable proposition.
In the premises, besides the already existing various schemes of detection, prevention deterrence, punishment and enforcement of the law and of court orders which would go some way to fight anti-Semitism, for what they may be worth I have a couple of suggestions of my own .
The first is to make full use of the technological advances and new technological methods being developed in the search, detection and prevention of terrorism.
The most recent of such projects is the one developed by Messrs. Ryan Greer and Vidhya Ramalingam who published a paper titled “The Search for Extremism: Deploying the Redirect Method “in the February 27 issue of the The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (policy Watch 3270)
The second, is
a) to locate and retain one or more public communication specialists who are, for example, politically profoundly attuned to, for example to the cultural psychology of
i) the people of a particular region or particular regions; or
ii) particular national, regional/state and local institutions that deal with matters related to social, religious and political extremism;
b) to communicate bluntly facts about anti-Semitism and related subjects through a series of different packages to be disseminated through the social and public media, static or self-activating public posters or signs of various sizes and kinds attached to a camera for the purpose of :generating the intended responses or sets of responses such as to: arouse interest, educate, inform, surprise, amuse, amaze, startle, shock, comfort, puzzle, quiz, react, etc.
c) to conduct on the spot surveys with the subjects; and
d) to assess the effectiveness of the technique in generating the intended results.
The information thus gathered would then be used
a) to assess the effectiveness of the kind of work done by the particular national, regional/state and local institutions that deal with matters related to social, religious and political extremism; and
b) to formulate and lobby for the kinds of changes and improvements suggested by the study to the existing structures and programs in order to enhance their respective efficiency and effectiveness.