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Learning The Wrong Lessons From The Holocaust

The only real lesson that Marc H. Ellis wishes Jews to learn from the Holocaust is that Israelis are behaving like Nazis and that Jews who assist the Palestinian violence in achieving its aims are ethically equivalent to those few Germans who rescued Jews in World War II from the Gestapo.

Marc H. Ellis is a professor and the director of the Center for American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Like Norman Finkelstein, Ellis is commonly honored and cited as a Jewish anti-Jewish and anti-Israel authority by neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers. Ellis has publicly endorsed not only Finkelstein’s wretched little book The Holocaust Industry, but also Finkelstein’s scurrilous ad hominem attacks on the Nobel Prize-winning writer and philosopher Elie Wiesel. Ellis is proud of his collaboration with Finkelstein and endorses Finkelstein’s venomous activities against Israel.

Ellis holds a Ph.D. from Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee and no one’s idea of a serious research center on Jewish thought. His first position after graduation was at Maryknoll School of Theology in Maryknoll, New York, a Catholic school that is evidently not accredited as a research university but is a center for “liberation theologists.” Ellis moved to Baylor in 1998 as a full professor and there he directs “Jewish Studies” all by his lonesome, the sole faculty member at the Center of American and Jewish Studies.

Ellis has published a series of books, all largely promoting liberation theology mixed with his thoughts about the Holocaust and Israel’s endless track record of “inhumane crimes.” Most of these are published by Fortress Press, a non-academic church publisher associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Ellis sits on the editorial board of Tikkun magazine, which touts Marxism and New Age liberation theology dressed up with some nominally Jewish emblems and slogans. An active collaborator with Tikkun’s Michael Lerner, Ellis is a regular on the Bash Israel lecture circuit and is a speaker in high demand for “Palestine Solidarity” events.

Ellis claims to be some sort of expert on Holocaust Studies and has authored a number of books that claim to be Holocaust scholarship, including Ending Auschwitz: The Future of Jewish and Christian Life and Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes, which purports to be a book about the “lessons of the Holocaust” for resolving the Arab-Israeli war.

Ellis sums up in his own words the “lesson” he draws from the Holocaust :

“To have the Holocaust part of Jewish success, to have the victims of the Holocaust become part of Jewish empowerment, is unsettling. To speak of the Holocaust without confessing our sins towards the Palestinian people and seeking a real justice with them is a hypocrisy that debases us as Jews. Surely, the ultimate trivialisation [sic] is the use of memory to oppress others and this, rather than the ‘industry’, is responsible for the difficulties facing those who seek to communicate the historic suffering of European Jews.”

Ellis repeatedly insists that Jews have abandoned “Prophetic ethics.” But there is little in his books to indicate that he has the slightest idea of which ethics the Prophets of the Bible really promoted, or even that he has ever bothered to read those books. He evidently is willing to take Michael Lerner’s word on what they contain.

Ellis’s idea of promoting biblical ethics is to write Israel-bashing pieces for the same al-Ahram Egyptian daily that regularly prints blood libels about Jews. Ellis thinks that Jews should turn their High Holidays into days of mourning for their “crimes” against “Palestinians.”

His latest book is Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes (Pluto Press). The first hint one has of the real orientation of this atrocious work, which purports to be a theological re-examination of what it means to be Jewish after the Holocaust, is that the only people Ellis and his publisher could find to endorse the book on the jacket are Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and others of their ilk. Not a single Jewish theologian. Pro-terror and Islamist web sites have given the book rave reviews. So has the PLO’s web site. Need we say more?

The poorly written book is little more than a vicious anti-Israel broadside. The only thing of value that Ellis thinks Jews should derive from their experiences during the Holocaust is an unambiguous denunciation of Israel and total support for the demands and agenda of the Palestinian terrorists. He is as hostile to the Jews of America as he is to those of Israel: “We as Jews come after the Holocaust, but we also come after the illusory promises of Israel and America. And we cannot find our way alone, only with others who realize that the promises they have been handed are also illusory.”

For Ellis, Israel is the embodiment of all that is evil and all that is wrong with Judaism today. His concept of Israel is of a bunch of “bullies” riding about in helicopters and firing senselessly at poor innocent Palestinian civilians for absolutely no reason at all (an image repeated ad nauseam in almost all his screeds).

Suicide bombers blowing up Israeli buses and other perpetrators of mass atrocities against Jews do not interest the busy Ellis, who always manages to find time to sit in on board meetings of the “Deir Yassin Remembrance” propaganda committee. He certainly does not think any lessons from the Holocaust can constitute justification for any Israeli soldier actually picking up a weapon to defend his country. Ellis’s Israel is a belligerent, selfish entity, mistreating and enslaving (yes, he uses that term) the Palestinians, as part of some sort of grand pursuit of the goals of the Jewish settlers in the “Palestinian” territories.

Ellis makes it clear that he only feels comfortable with his fellow Jews when they are being victimized. When they stand up to defend themselves, they lose their Jewish soul and their legitimate right to exist. In his zeal to delegitimize Israel (he speaks blissfully of the “post-Israel era” and is a supporter of the “One State Solution,” whereby a single Palestinian state with an Arab majority emerges in all of Israeli and Palestinian territory), he goes even further than the “rabbis” of Tikkun magazine, which Ellis regularly praises as the very embodiment of post-Holocaust Jewish ethical concern and values.

Like Norman Finkelstein, Ellis throughout his book asserts that the Jews have utilized the Holocaust as a gimmick to grasp power, steal property, and oppress the poor Arabs. Ellis cannot imagine the Arabs as having ever done anything that might justify Jewish retaliations and reprisals against them by Israel. According to Ellis, Israel’s original sin was to utilize the Holocaust as an excuse to occupy “Palestinian” land – never mind that the only land Israel ever “occupied” was Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian.

Ellis is openly contemptuous of any talk about Jews being in need of any national empowerment. Such things constitute “Constantinian Judaism,” to use Ellis’s favorite nonsense term, a malapropism he picked up – one supposes – after spending too much time working in Christian theological institutions. This, deconstructs Ellis, is nothing more than conscripting religion to serve the agenda of the militarist state. Ellis uses it to describe Jews who support either Israel or the United States and, of course, those malicious Jewish settlers. Jews can only fulfill their proper ethical role in history – which, Ellis is persuaded, is to promote socialism and leftist fads – if they are stateless and suffering.

Nor is Ellis willing to acknowledge that any “mistreatment” of Palestinians, such as the assassination of some of their leading terrorists, might have anything at all to do with the atrocities committed by Palestinians against Israelis. Clearly such Israeli behavior could not possibly have anything to do with Jews in Israel having learned a lesson or two from the Holocaust. In a book supposedly about the lessons of the Holocaust for Jews, there is not a word about the Nazi-like demonization of Jews by the PLO and its affiliates or the Islamofascist calls for genocide against Jews.

Ellis, as mentioned, is a passionate endorser of the “One-State Solution,” also known as the Rwanda Solution, in which Israel will simply be eliminated as a Jewish state and enfolded within a larger Palestinian-dominated state that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This, insists Ellis, is the ultimate realization of the Jewish mission and the only permissible lesson that Jews may learn from the Holocaust.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steven_plaut@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

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