With International Holocaust Remembrance Day just around the corner, it is important that we stop and reflect upon the tragic event that shaped the modern Jewish community, Zionism, and the world. We must continue to support survivors and listen to their stories, while documenting them for future generations. At a time when conspiracy theories, belittlement, and denial of the Holocaust continue to grow, it is more important than ever to educate future generations–many of whom know little-to-nothing about the genocide, or have never met a Holocaust survivor.
But this is also an important time to combat and counter another little-acknowledged problem in modern society: Selective Remembrance of the Holocaust, and genocides in general. Perhaps it is well-known that figures like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Mahmoud Abbas regularly issue statements “condemning” or “remembering” the Holocaust, yet they either continue to tout racist conspiracy theories or tropes, or don’t even mention the specific communities victimized (particularly Jews) by the Nazis. Revisionist and antisemitic history are other elements of the political left’s Selective Genocide Remembrance. But–in the words of the late and great Billy Mays–wait, there’s more.
The political left has grown very used to two seemingly-contradictory trends in recent years. The first is ignoring or belittling antisemitism that has grown worldwide. Some lip-service will be done to anti-Jewish sentiment when the threat comes from far-right White Supremacists in the Western World. Nothing is said about leftist or Islamist antisemitism. During the 2016 US election, the Hate Has No Home Here signs and memes that circulated on social media, or went up on people’s front lawns, talked of standing alongside every religious and ethnic minority–besides Jews.
This despite the racist sentiment against Jews that rose from extremist, Trump-supporting groups and the former president’s own antisemitic dog-whistles used on occasion. Jews are also the ethno-religious group most targeted for hate crimes in the US, despite being only 2% of the population. The second trend is the political left constantly comparing everything and everyone deemed regressive–including Trump–to Nazis and the Holocaust. Not only is this false and outrageous, it is deeply offensive. We are not some political tool to be used to advance a party’s own political agenda, and then be forgotten about after the fact. We’re human beings with a traumatic history. Then again, this isn’t the first time the Democratic Party has used minorities like the Baskin Robbins “flavor of the month.” But I disgress…
The political left has gone beyond its strange relationship to Holocaust remembrance when it comes to Selective Genocide Remembrance. Ilhan Omar, a supposedly-progressive Minnesota Representative, controversially voted “present” on a House vote to recognize the Ottoman-Turkish Genocide of Christian Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915, during World War One. After much criticism, Omar “all lives mattered” the vote by saying that all genocides and human rights should be remembered, and shifted the conversation to the US’ own bloody history. Recently in Canada, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, a survivor of ISIS’ genocide against the Yezidi people, was disinvited from a book event. Toronto District School Board was concerned that the victim of genocide would “offend Muslims” by telling her harrowing and tragic story of survival.
This is akin to saying that Holocaust survivors sharing their experiences is racist against Germans, or that recognition of the 1915 genocide against Ottoman Greek, Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities is spreading Turkophobia. Equally problematic and outrageous is the insinuation behind the TDSB’s statement: that ordinary people can’t think for themselves and distinguish between ordinary Muslims and terrorists; that Muslims are somehow less capable of learning about atrocities without being offended; that all Muslims are one collective unit, and thus all will be offended by Murad’s story; that ISIS didn’t also cause grave destruction to Muslim communities; that the priorities of the feelings of one minority group (Muslims, in this case) are more important than those of another; that respecting sensitivities are more important than remembering history, particularly genocide; and that the rights of women (Murad was a sex slave, and repeatedly raped after the annihilation of her family) are only secondary to fighting perceived Islamophobia.
This is not a new pattern. It has become perhaps a tired joke that liberal Americans wish to “flee to Canada” should a Republican enter the White House (few actually do this). Many progressive Americans go on and on about how “enlightened” Canada and western European countries are, how leftist, how great their health care is, and so on. Yet in doing so, they somehow neglect to mention the genocides that have taken place there. The genocide of indigenous people in the United States is widely condemned among Democratic voters, yet these same people ignore Canada’s own such genocide when they talk of moving there.
Germany helped cover up (and in some cases, actually encouraged) the 1915 Ottoman Empire’s genocide, and committed one of its own in Namibia, decades before the Holocaust. The United Kingdom still refuses to recognize the 1915 genocide, instead talking of why it is “inconvenient” to do so in light of its “strategic relationship with Turkey.” And despite Iraq not being a country anymore in the truest sense of the word, the French government is still too cowardly to recognize the 1983, anti-Kurdish Al-Anfal Campaign as an act of genocide committed by a dictator who’s been dead for 16 years. Yet Emmanuel Macron was still hailed as the “new leader of Europe” and “new leader of the free world” during the Trump Presidency. Meanwhile, progressive Europeans have denounced Kurds–one of the region’s indigenous minorities–as “imperialists.” And of course, all this comes as the most radical elements among the political left falsely accuse Israel of genocide against Palestinians.
The political left is facing a great challenge. On the one hand, it is fighting with itself, between radicals and moderates–with moderates increasingly caving to radicals to combat the “shared threat” of the extremist right-wing. Yet doing so undermines what the political left stands for, and discredits it. It disrespects survivors of genocide and their descendants, and ignores or whitewashes history. In other words, the left is becoming the very thing it wishes to counter–and is losing voters as a result. One can only hope that they change course before it is too late. One shouldn’t have to guess–yet again–the motives or sincerity of left-wing statements on solidarity and mourning when International Holocaust Remembrance Day arrives this year. After all, Selective Genocide Remembrance is perhaps the worst form of “alternative facts.”