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Kenneth Jacobson

The weaponization of the Holocaust against Israel

This is a particularly hard Yom Hashoah commemoration because of the suffering in Israel from October 7, deemed the worst massacre of Jews since the Shoah, and because over 100 are still being held hostage by the terrorists. These events, together with the worldwide surge in antisemitism, remind us, while not comparing anything to the horror of the Shoah, that the world hasn’t learned a lot since that great tragedy. 

It is particularly difficult, however, in another way. The purpose of Yom Hashoah and all the activities surrounding it is to remember the millions who perished, and to commit to never again. But what we are seeing too often in the past six months is not a commitment towards avoiding a future Holocaust, but the turning of the Holocaust into a weapon against the Jewish people. 

It begins with the most basic theme of hostility toward Jews: Holocaust denial. Over the years, books were written “proving” that the Shoah never actually happened and that it was a fantasy concocted by Jews who controlled the media and sources of information to win support for Israel and the Jewish people. It had the additional motivation of trying to restore the legitimacy of fascism, a political ideology that was widely supported in Europe before WWII, but which lost any legitimacy with the evidence of the Holocaust. 

We see today such denialism popping up all over with regard to October 7. Stories on social media and in certain Islamist circles simply deny that there was a massacre or rapes by Hamas. The claim again is Jewish control of the media. And the political purpose is to present Hamas not as having committed the worst terrorism since 9-11, but as a resistance group to alleged Israeli oppression. All of this even as there is wide circulation of videos produced by Hamas to celebrate their barbarism. 

Second is the quickness to accuse Israel of genocide. Here again, the irony is that the very concept of international condemnation of genocide and commitment to prevent it, grew out of the genocide of the Nazis against the Jews. It is no accident that so many are quick to attribute that unholy word to Israel, considering the history of anti-Zionism and the guilt that pervades the West over the murder of six million Jews. 

Let us recall that it was in 1975 that the UN voted to deem Zionism, the liberation movement of the Jewish people in pursuit of self-determination in their ancestral homeland, to be equal to racism. This meant that the founding of Israel, which was what Zionism was about, was beyond the pale. It was in that light, with the dissemination around the world for decades of this prejudicial judgment against the Jewish state, that the most horrific attack took place. And then when Israel did what any government would have to do, defend its people, the world was set up to denounce the victims as committing genocide. 

The other element in this assault on Israel’s good name, is the need to psychologically balance the sense of guilt. The more that was learned about the Shoah over the decades, the more it became evident that it never could have happened without centuries of deeply embedded anti-Jewish attitudes which had an impact on the perpetrators, the collaborators and the bystanders. Now there was an opportunity to even the score by saying “you Jews have your genocide committers just as we had ours.”

Third, is the tendency to put Israel and Jews who support it in the oppressor class. Those who hold those views see events since October 7 as further proof that the Jewish state represents the colonialist oppression of indigenous people.

This glib pronouncement that has so much power in certain circles simply ignores three realities about the Jewish people and the state of Israel. 

First, for many years, a significant proportion of the Jews of Israel were survivors of the Shoah who made it to Israel after the most harrowing experiences, including often the murder of their entire families by the Nazis. And, as time has passed and survivors pass away, it is their children who have to live with the knowledge of what their parents lived through and how arriving in Israel was their redemption from pure evil. 

Second, it ignores the fact that over half the Jewish population of Israel are from the Middle East, their families have lived in the region for centuries, and they ended up in Israel when life became intolerable for them in their countries of origin. 

And third, the Jewish people survived for millennia in the diaspora often under the harshest of conditions simply on the hope and aspiration of returning to their ancestral homeland  as a nation, the basis for the existence and identity of the people, the land of Israel.

To deem Israel a colonialist nation is to ignore all three factors.

In sum, the effort to use the Holocaust against the Jewish people is despicable but not surprising. The worst periods of anti-Jewish hatred rely on lies and fantasies that justify their actions.  

For many years, the Jewish people worried that the passage of time and the passing away of survivors would lead to forgetting about the Shoah. Now there is an additional factor, the use of the Holocaust against Israeli actions in Gaza and the Jewish people, which can only play into Holocaust denial, already a growing phenomenon.

Let us all stand up against this dangerous antisemitic development.

About the Author
Kenneth Jacobson is Deputy National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
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