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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Holocaust Memorial Day?

Tuesday was Holocaust Memorial Day in the 'international community.' In the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Schwammenthal hopes it's the last such day outside the Jewish community (Hat Tip: Danny A.).
Anti-Semitism -- and not only when disguised as anti-Zionism -- is in vogue again in Europe. To scant media attention, and even scanter government criticism, the shouts of "Death to Jews" have filled the streets of the Continent in recent weeks, as protestors, mostly Muslims, voice opposition to the war in Gaza. Western trade unions and academics have intensified their calls for a boycott of Israel. In Italy, a trade union even called for boycotts of local stores owned by Jews.

The solemn speeches around Europe yesterday mourning those who died in the Holocaust hardly mentioned these developments. Citing the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, the Central Council of Jews in Germany stayed away from yesterday's official ceremony in the German Parliament.

The United Nations also had a Holocaust memorial service yesterday. Yet just four months ago, the president of Iran was allowed to give an anti-Semitic speech at the General Assembly to enthusiastic applause from many delegations. Although talking about "Zionists," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's use of classic anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish plot for world domination made it clear whom he really was after.

Although they "are miniscule minority," he said, the Zionists "have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner." And so on. The secretary general of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, embraced the Iranian after his hate speech.

That's the same d'Escoto Brockmann who is calling for a boycott of Israel. It's also the same man who was scheduled to open yesterday's U.N. Holocaust Memorial ceremony but backed down after Israel complained. It's easy to understand why he had wanted to be there: The more crocodile tears people like him spill for dead Jews the easier it is for them to demonize the living ones and avoid being tagged as anti-Semitic. In such hands, Holocaust memorials have become a cover to pound the Jewish state with greater moral authority.

In Europe, there were a few cancellations of yesterday's annual Holocaust Memorial Day events, along with comments suggesting that Jews are the new Nazis. In Barcelona, a city official told La Vanguardia that "marking the Jewish Holocaust while a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place is not right." People in Lulea, Sweden, said Israel's war in Gaza left it unable to mourn the six million dead Jews. "It feels uneasy to have a torchlight procession to remember the victims of the Holocaust at this time," Bo Nordin, a clergyman and spokesman for a local church, told Swedish National Radio. "We have been preoccupied and grief-stricken by the war in Gaza and it would just feel odd with a large ceremony about the Holocaust."

Trine Lilleng, a Norwegian diplomat -- stationed in Saudi Arabia no less -- spelled it out more directly in an email that found its way into the Jerusalem Post: "The grandchildren of Holocaust survivors from World War II are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them by Nazi Germany," she is reported to have written.

The lessons of the Holocaust are straightforward enough but they haven't been learned, as yesterday's events show. Let's stop pretending otherwise and put an end to these phony ceremonies.
Here in Israel, the sentiment is not a whole lot different. This is Noah Klieger in YNet:
However, the decision was one thing, but actions are quite another. Or more accurately, results are quite another thing. So the UN indeed holds a rather modest ceremony every year, although this year Holocaust survivor Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was invited to deliver a speech. Indeed, other countries in addition to Israel hold various ceremonies. However, all of this certainly does not rectify anything and does not promote the purpose behind this day.

In other words, in the absence of a serious, well-planned, and well formulated program for educating school children and raising awareness among all sectors of society worldwide, there would be no change in the perceptions and worldview of most nations. To put it bluntly, the UN's decision and the few ceremonies cannot curb the growing anti-Semitism.

They also cannot convince the various nations that six million people were indeed murdered in Europe just because they were Jewish; six million people who did not undertake any action against another people, who did not bear arms, and who did not carry out terror attacks. People who merely wanted to live, raise families, and make a living.

The UN decision in 2005 was indeed meant to mark the massacre of European Jewry, yet it has not changed a thing; neither attitudes nor views. Because if today, for example, an Italian cardinal can claim that Gaza is one giant concentration camp, the government of Catalonia can cancel a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony because of the "Gaza holocaust," and a Norwegian parliament member can say that Israel treats the Palestinians the way the SS treated the Jews, then clearly nothing has been learned and nothing has been changed.
I agree with both Schwammenthal and Klieger: the 'World community's hypocrisy in observing Holocaust Day while preparing the next Holocaust is shameful. But do we really want to let them off the hook completely by making Holocaust remembrance strictly a Jewish (and more specifically an Israeli or pro-Israeli) affair? Shouldn't we be educating the World's leaders regarding what distinguished the Nazi regime from other governments that have murdered their citizens?


At 6:02 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

An international Holocaust Memorial Day is meaningless if it does tie in the Holocaust to the rebirth of the Jewish State. Its cost-free to shed tears for dead Jews; no moral cost is involved. On the other hand, opposing anti-Semitism today - and actively supporting the world's Jewish State and preventing a Second Holocaust from happening via its destruction means supporting Israel's right existence and the equality of Jews as a sovereign people among the nations of the world - does carry a moral price, since it tells one who such people truly are. In short, how one feels about the Jews and Israel today is a Rorschach Test. What we see in fact has not happened; the reverse has occurred and in that light, all commemorating the Holocaust does today is to give those who hate the Jews and Israel an alibi for their anti-Semitism. In other words, if the world is not committed to changing the attitudes and views that led to the Holocaust in the first place, then nothing has really changed and Israel is still in grave danger.


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