January 20, 2009

At the top of Mount Chutzpah


Avner Shalev, the director of Yad Vashem criticizes the protesters against the Gaza massacre for using
signed and slogans comparing Israeli soldiers to German troops, the Gaza Strip to the Auschwitz death camp and the Jewish Star of David to the Nazi swastika
And he explains the logic:
The baseless use of Holocaust imagery and terminology as a weapon against Israel has incited a tangible surge of anti-Semitism...That is the danger inherent when people cynically use the Holocaust to distort a present political conflict. ( Haaretz )
Museum Yad Vashem? That's the museum whose chief historian thinks that the status of Jews as victims is threatened by a memorial to the homosexual victims of the Third Reich. These homosexuals supposedly don't deserve a memorial because they were "mostly German."

Many of the Jews the Nazis murdered were German, and most of them were even Polish.

I think that gratuitous use of holocaust imagery is demeaning. It is demeaning of the holocaust victims because it uses them as props without caring about them, and it is demeaning of the Palestinian victims because it implies that in order to be recognized they have to meet the standard of victimization of Jews in the holocaust. As if no suffering is worth rejecting unless it involves gas chambers and ovens.
Gratuitous use of holocaust imagery is also reactionary. Instead of recognizing that Israel's abuse of the holocaust is wrong and demeaning, it responds to that abuse with a mirror image abuse that is demeaning of all victims.

But to hear this from the head of Yad Vashem is the height of Chutzpa. Yad Vashem is the crown jewel in a ring of Jewish institutions in the West that "cynically use..the holocaust to distort a present day conflict." Now you talk?

All these swastikas painted on Israeli flags are the reaction to the Israeli use of the holocaust, as Gerald Kaufman said so well, as cover for murder. "The danger inherent when people cynically use the Holocaust to distort a present political conflict" is that other people will learn from you and do it as well. Jews should respect the memory of the Jews killed by the Nazis. Then they should demand others to respect that memory as well. In that order. (that is not an endorsment of disrespect to these murdered victims of the Nazis. Just because many prominent Jews are a**holes, you shouldn't be one.)

One other point about how

the baseless use of Holocaust imagery and terminology as a weapon against Israel has incited a tangible surge of anti-Semitism.

That is standing things on their head. What incites hatred toward Jews (and not all of it is antisemitism) is the murder of Palestinian children with weapons branded with a Star of David, by a state that claims to act in the name of Jews and for their sake, and with the blessing and support of most of the depraved institutions claiming to speak for Jews in the West. That misdirected hatred is unfortunate because it is misdirected, but also because hatred of Jews is a gift and an asset to Zionism.




It should be clear that not all comparisons between the holocaust and current events are demeaning and wrong. Some are thoughtful, respectful and insightful, for example this one. Some are rooted in unassailable personal experience, for example this one.

I have tried to keep my own on the side of the respectful, but recognize that I have not always succeeded. I apologize for the failures.

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