Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
My father-in-law is a Dutch Holocaust survivor who was liberated from Bergen Belsen at the age of twelve. Though he was exceedingly young at the time of his ordeal and liberation, the book of memoirs he wrote decades later is a startlingly accurate and detailed depiction of the political, religious, and communal climate in Holland during the Nazi era. And it is a meticulous account of his harrowing experiences in concentration camps, which included the death of his parents.
His book is just one of a plethora of Holocaust memoirs and testimonials, each one a personal documentary of the most horrific event in modern history. But apparently the surplus of first-hand testimony and our closeness in historical proximity to the Holocaust are not enough to convince some naysayers of its veracity. Indeed, a quick Google search yields close to five million hits under “Holocaust denial,” an unfathomable number slowly encroaching on the actual number of Jewish victims.
Several weeks ago the Rialto Unified School District in California defended an eighth-grade writing assignment that asked students to debate whether the Holocaust actually happened. Though the school district eventually pulled the assignment after coming under pressure, the fact that an American school would ask its students to debate whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain” is both astounding and frightening.
Rialto students were asked to write an argumentative essay, using “textual evidence” to explain why some people claim “the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”
Though the ADL condemned the assignment as lending “legitimacy to the hateful and anti-Semitic promoters of Holocaust denial,” it ultimately concluded there was no evidence this was part of a “larger, insidious agenda” on the part of the school.
Perhaps not. But it is difficult to accept how the assignment itself does not spell out an agenda. Granting legitimacy to the idea that the Holocaust was merely a “propaganda tool” and teaching students that such a viewpoint is as valid as the historical authenticity of the Holocaust cannot be dismissed as merely an academic exercise.
Would the Rialto school have assigned a debate on whether or not slavery actually occurred or asked students if slavery was used as a “propaganda tool”? What about the Armenian genocide? No one questions the veracity of atrocities that occurred decades before the Holocaust. No one denies the tens of millions killed by the Red Chinese or the Soviet Union during the time frame overlapping World War II.
The movement to deny the Holocaust is novel even against the backdrop of the long history of crimes against the Jews. There is no history of Spanish Inquisition denial, pogrom denial, etc.
The question is why.
The answer is because denying the Holocaust does not just deny a historical event but also the perceived implications of that event. It rejects the tacit linkage between the Holocaust and its aftermath.
After the world turned its back on the systematic murder of six million Jews, its conscience niggled at it and in many cases expressed itself in an endorsement of statehood for the Jewish people. But the concept of returning to our homeland long predated the world’s (short-lived) remorse for its abandonment of the Jews. The Jewish claim to the land of Israel is not seventy years old – it’s more than two thousand years old. Our biblical inheritance is a bequeathal from God, not a guilt offering from the community of nations.
But because it is widely believed that the world’s collective guilt was responsible for the establishment of Israel in 1948 – even President Obama in his 2009 Cairo speech stated that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied” – those with nefarious motives recognize that denying or downplaying the reality of the Holocaust weakens Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of too many people.
It is no wonder that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s notorious doctoral dissertation reduced the number of Holocaust victims to “[possibly] below one million,” denied the use of gas chambers, and detailed a “secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism.” It is also no wonder that Abbas’s thesis is widely taught throughout the PA educational system, so much so that the Center for Near East Policy Research Center found that it “is the basis for Holocaust studies in the PA.”
A blurred line exists between anti-Semites on the far left whose eagerness to buy into the Palestinian narrative (historical revisionism at its best) leads them to minimize the Holocaust and those on the far right who are only too eager to repeat it.
Holocaust denial is both a natural precursor to the delegitimization of Israel and a well-traveled bridge between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And the use of Holocaust rhetoric to further demonize Jews with the intent of relieving the world of its guilt while blaming Jews for persecution against others is a propaganda tool that would have made Joseph Goebbels proud.
My father-in-law is among an aging and dwindling population of Holocaust survivors, who were eyewitnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust. It is imperative that all efforts be made to keep the memories of that hellish period alive and in the forefront of our consciousness so that “Never Again” resonates with people from Rialto to Riyadh. Because there is no greater sin against the memory of the Holocaust (and its victims) than to deny its existence.
About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.
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Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.
Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”
Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?
Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.
The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.
Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!
Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.
A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.
Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent
Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.
While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.
In the fury and flurry of publicity surrounding the Klinghoffer opera, another musical affront to Jews almost went unnoticed.
I understand how two governments can negotiate a ceasefire, but terrorists by definition are not playing by the same rules as you are.
Like all patriotic Americans, I cheered implementation of the Bush Doctrine to preemptively protect American lives from the perceived threat of WMD.
Though the school district eventually pulled the assignment after coming under pressure, the fact that an American school would ask its students to debate whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain” is both astounding and frightening.
It is not the role of schools or government to make people feel good about themselves. Self-esteem comes with productivity, not in the absence of it.
Despite the exodus thousands of years ago and our break from the ghettos hundreds of years ago, the slave mentality follows us like a long shadow.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/denying-the-deniers/2014/06/12/
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