A PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR LOOKS AT THE HOLOCAUST

A brilliant article written by a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset just appeared in the latest on-line edition of Al Ahram Weekly. There has been much talk lately, much written about the Holocaust, and denials of same. International confernces have been held in reference to both sides.
Azmi Bishara writes his views here, views that might catch some zionists by surprise. He does not deny the Holocaust, but tries to put it in perspective to the reality of the time it happened and the reasons for it.
It is a definite worth read and is presented here…..

Ways of denial
The Holocaust must be contextualised, and its lessons learned, writes Azmi Bishara

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The Nazi Holocaust aimed to rid Europe of its “Jewish taint”. By this was meant banking capital as opposed to industrial capital and the moral degeneracy, lack of patriotism, scorn for national values, heritage and other such ills caused by the “worm” that ate away at all that was noble and pure in the Germanic people. That worm was the racial strain that never belonged, that was intrinsically alien and that nevertheless insisted on remaining in order to wreak its pollution; it was European Jewry and its various manifestations including capitalism, communism and liberalism, and its mere presence, according to this diabolical system of thought, that were a scourge to racial purity.

Late capitalism, as forcefully imposed by the centralised bureaucratic state, converged with a fanatical and rabidly xenophobic and very ideological late nationalism of the “vesrspaeteten Nationen” with a history of religious anti-Semitism dating back to the Middle Ages and the crusader expeditions that attacked Jewish villages in central Europe en route to Palestine, a religious exclusionism that targeted both Muslims and Jews in Andalusian Spain and that shaped part of European identity in terms of both an external determinant — the Muslims — and an internal determinant — the Jews.

But the Nazis’ obsession with the annihilation of the Jews was also fired by an ideology that incorporated totalitarian social engineering, founded upon social Darwinism and assorted recent biological discoveries that were applied to human beings, together with a populist romantic socialism that was hostile to communism, democratic socialism and liberalism, all regarded as alien to the “Volksgeist”, “the spirit of the people”.

This form of pseudo-scientifically justified and coldly carried out mass extermination would not have been possible without a strong ability to compartmentalise between the bureaucratic functionary and the duty to obey orders, on the one hand, and the individual and his private moral sphere on the other, a phenomenon that is one of the characteristics of the modern state apparatus. Nor would it have been possible without all the business of documentation, recording and archiving, which is also a characteristic of the modern state.

The irony of all this pseudo-scientific human taxonomy and the obsessive documentation of the names, addresses, confiscated possessions and physical details of the people who were rounded up and freighted to the concentration camps and from there to the gas chambers is that this paperwork has become the most important primary historical source for the Holocaust and the most important instrument with which to refute the claims of those who deny it occurred or belittle its magnitude.

It is not so much the sheer numbers of victims that distinguishes the Holocaust. As unique as it was in the 20th century, millions of native inhabitants were exterminated en masse in the Americas over the course of previous centuries. Nor is it just a question of scale: many more millions died in the course of World War II, alone, than in the Nazi gas chambers and these included Russians, Germans, Poles, French, Italians and many other nationalities. The true horror of the Holocaust resides not only in the deliberate singling out of entire peoples — Jews and Gypsies — for extermination and in the scale of this crime, but also in the totality of the target and the “rational” way in which it was carried out.

Jews were snatched from their homes amid the general silence of their neighbours, a silence interspersed by hatemongering by anti-Semitic groups and by the active complicity of informers. Most of the Jews who died in the concentration camps were not Zionists; in fact, many may not have even heard of Zionism. Moreover, the role of the Zionist movement in saving Jews, or in conspiring with the Nazis, was very marginal, regardless of the number of studies that have been produced on both cases and regardless of the fact that most of their findings have been corroborated. Zionism did, indeed, have two faces; it was the perspectives and aims of the researchers that were and remain at odds.

The Zionist movement began, and had set its sights on Palestine, long before the Holocaust. Zionists only used the Holocaust to justify their national project in hindsight, even if that justification is what drove some Arabs to deny the existence of the Holocaust. Yet, while there are people who have felt that by minimising or even refuting the Holocaust they undermine Jewish claims to a state in Palestine, the majority of educated and informed Arab opinion has never denied the Holocaust or the existence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Rather, they have argued — correctly — that since this horror took place in Europe the Palestinians should not have to pay the price.

Although it vaguely existed as a blend between the residue of a religious culture and extremist nationalist ideas imported from Europe even in early stages, anti-Semitism in the sense of hostility towards the Jews only began to spread significantly in the Arab world in the form of cultural and intellectual output after 1967. Clearly, the rise of this phenomenon coincided with the rise of a metaphysical attitude that sought to explain the overwhelming Arab defeat of that year in terms of the confrontation with an absolute evil bent on a global conspiracy of the nature of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which has been proven to be an invention of the Russian secret service at the end of the 19th century but which nevertheless found many gullible ears in the Arab world in the wake of the 1967 defeat. Holocaust denial similarly emerged during this period and in the same spirit of a fantastic conspiracy theory that ascribed to an international Jewish cabal the power to invent and dupe the entire world into believing a stupendous set of lies.

I would like to suggest that there are two types of Holocaust denial. One, espoused by elements of the European traditional right and neo-ultra right, is to deny it happened. This form has not acquired sufficient roots to become a determinant of the behaviour of nations and societies. The other form of denial is to ignore that the Holocaust occurred within a particular historic context and, hence, to deal with it as some fiendish aberration that somehow occurred outside the bounds of time and place. One major consequence of this approach is that it inhibits the study of the Holocaust as a historical phenomenon and as a sobering primer on the dangers of racism, extremist nationalist chauvinism and totalitarian social engineering in modern mass societies.

But Holocaust denial can assume another face, which is to reduce it to an instrument for realising political ends. The Zionist movement has excelled in this, its rituals and rhetoric in commemoration of Holocaust victims far outstripping its concern for the victims and its activities to combat the phenomenon when it occurred. In fact, the subject was not even on the agenda of the Jewish organised community, the “Yeshov”, in mandate Palestine during the war years and many Zionists at the time found it embarrassing to hear of Jews being dragged off to be slaughtered without putting up a resistance; it conflicted with the nationalist fighting spirit and the image of the new man they were trying to inculcate. It was not until the Eichmann trial that the embarrassed silence was broken and emotions suddenly gushed out.

In the course of Zionism’s attempts to portray the history of the entire Jewish people as one uninterrupted stream of oppression and persecution that culminated inevitably in the Holocaust, Holocaust history has been transformed into an exclusively Israeli property. Victims of the Nazi gas chambers have been nationalised and converted, in spite of themselves, either into an episode in the Zionist struggle to create a state or into an instrument for blackmailing others into supporting Zionist aims or for justifying the crimes the Zionist state perpetrates against others. It is as though the magnitude of the crime entitles Israel to play the victim par excellence or the victims’ sole proxy, placing it beyond accusations of wrongdoing because it is the victim by definition.

The Zionist casting of all Jews as victims of Nazi atrocities has given rise to two curious phenomena. The first is that any Israeli can speak and act as the victim even if he has more in common ideologically and psychologically with the offender or the “Capo” — the Jews who cooperated with the Nazis in the concentration camps. In other words, the mere fact of being born to a Jewish mother somehow gives licence to represent all victims, including in front of those who actually are more victims than he is and those who are more hostile to Nazism, racism and its offshoots. The second phenomenon is the monopoly claimed by the Israeli ruling establishment to speak on behalf of Jews and Jewish history in general, which largely translates into soliciting, and pressuring for, political and financial support for Israel.

In the first instance, the challenge of truly understanding and learning lessons from the Nazi phenomenon is reduced to something akin to a therapy session in which those in the role of victim help those in the role of perpetrator purge their guilt by satisfying the psychological and material demands of the former. There is something morally repugnant in this passing of the sins, or innocence, of the fathers to the sons, as opposed to engaging in an objective process of historical investigation with the aim of combating racism in all forms and in all societies. After all, the main victims of European racism today are not Jews, and in Palestine Zionism is not the victim but the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the Israeli- German therapy sessions ignore such stark realities and, in so doing, offer both the Israelis and the Germans carte blanche to vent their racism on others, as though the Holocaust were a purely German-Israeli concern and the greater phenomenon of racism something else entirely. It is as if through their mutual catharsis with regard to the former they exonerate themselves from responsibility for the latter.

Meanwhile, Zionism’s unwarranted, illogical and historically unsubstantiated monopoly on the role of Holocaust victims’ spokesperson sits well with Europe. Most of Zionism’s aims and demands do not require Europe to engage in a serious process of introspection in order to uproot the deeper causes that gave rise to the Holocaust. Contrary to what one may logically expect, this suits Zionism’s purposes because it keeps the monolithic discreteness of the Holocaust intact and diminishes, in comparison, the significance of Europe’s other crimes. The upshot is to toss the entire Jewish question outside Europe and dump it in the Middle East. It may come as a relief to European officials to be able to exonerate themselves for the Holocaust by placating Israel with anti-Palestinian, anti- Arab and even anti-Muslim sympathies. If anything, however, this form of behaviour confirms the continuation of the underlying syndrome, a syndrome that is nevertheless glossed over with a fresh bill of moral health, authorised and stamped by Israel after every visit of atonement a European leader makes to the “Yad Vashim” Museum in Jerusalem.

It is for this reason that all victims of racism across the world should campaign to break the Zionist hold over the role of spokesman for victims of the Holocaust. Conversely, the Arabs and Palestinians who deny the Holocaust offer European and Zionist racism no greater gift than this denial of the occurrence of the Holocaust. What possible Arab or Islamic interest can it serve to even offer to exonerate Europe of one of the blackest pages in its history? To do so is not only to absolve Europe of a crime that was, in fact, committed, but also to earn its contempt and to wake up one day to find Europe and Israel joining forces against Arab or Muslim Holocaust deniers with such venom that one might imagine that the Holocaust had occurred in Egypt or Iran and that Holocaust denial is a far graver crime than the perpetration of the Holocaust itself. Holocaust denial is just plain stupid, also as a political argument. But Israel will be no less expedient in turning the provocation against its regional adversaries who had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

On the other hand, the Holocaust is a phenomenon that merits proper scholastic study, the purpose of which is to sort fact from fiction, and myth form reality. No incident in history lies beyond the realm of historical research. This said, Tehran can hardly be said to have a tradition of Holocaust studies; the subject does not rate very high in Iranian academic priorities. And a conference in Tehran that was proceeded by a political speech denying the Holocaust cannot be said to be an academic conference; it was a political demonstration, one that harms the Arabs and Muslims and serves only the ultra-right and neo-Nazi forces in Europe and the Zionist movement.

During World War II, when some Arabs and other Third World peoples were rooting for Germany because it was fighting the colonial powers France and Britain, the Arab and Third World left, which had allied with the Soviet Union, argued that it was wrong for the victims of racism to side with the racist Nazi regime. Their position was correct. Today, there is not even a pragmatic immoral justification whatsoever for siding with European racism. Holocaust denial does not undermine the moral justifications for the existence of the state of Israel, as some imagine. What it does, however, is hand the European right and Israel a convenient enemy upon which to unload their problems. This enemy comprises Palestinians and Arabs, specifically fundamentalist Muslims, those Bush is fond of calling “Islamic fascists”.

The initial Arab reaction to the Holocaust was simple and straightforward and much more rational. The Holocaust occurred, but it was a tragedy for which the Europeans, not the Arabs, should assume responsibility. This is the opinion that prevailed throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the sense of normalcy that survived in all of us continues to hold it.

13 Comments

  1. Terry Scott, MD said,

    December 26, 2006 at 14:33

    Azmi Bishara is a brilliant thinker whose depth is unfortunately lost on the shallow undertanding of the American readership. His articles are very very erudite and worth reading. Someone ought to make a Bishara-Reader text like we have for Chomsky, Gore Vidal, and other major thinkers of our time.

  2. DesertPeace said,

    December 26, 2006 at 14:57

    Thanks Terry… good idea…. but keep in mind that Bishara’s words have already been translated from the arabic, to add a reader text might be dificult.

  3. Anonymous said,

    December 26, 2006 at 15:58

    I believe that this writer lives in a world of make believe. He ignored the ties of Muslims such as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who called for the extermination of all the Jews, including those in the Middle East. He ignored the creation of Croatian Muslim SS Divisions who helped carry out the Final Solution. He ignored the Arab refusal to accept the UN plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and a Muslim state with an internationalized Jerusalem. The Arabs expected to win militarily; but lost. He does not ask why, when the West Bank and East Jerusalem were under Jordanian control and Gaza was under Egyptian control were refugees kept in camps instead of an independent Arab Palestinian state? Why were most Palestinians not allowed to be assimilated into other Arabic nations? Why was more emphasis placed on their use as a political or propaganda tool than in improving the qualities of their lives? Why does the writer ignore the 875,000 Jews who were forced to flee Muslim lands after 1948 and who were successfully resettled within Israel or other countries? Why does he ignore the daily anti-semitic and racist diatribes that are leveled at Jews every day in the Arab press, media and educational system? Jews in Israel are not taught in school to regard Muslims as “pigs, dogs and monkeys.” He admits that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a historic forgery but neglects to acknowledge or condemn the serialization of the Protocols on Arab television. Perhaps if the Palestinians and other Arabs spent more attention and money on seeking to improve their political, social, economic, educational, technological and medical systems instead of continuing to seek ways of destroying the “Zionist entity” peace could be more achievable. But I doubt they will. It is more convenient for the autocratic Arab and Muslim regimes to blame Israel and the Jews for their problems instead of dealing with their own shortcomings. Until they place the quality and potential of their childrens’ lives over their political ideologies there will never be peace in that region.

  4. DesertPeace said,

    December 26, 2006 at 16:29

    Anonymous… you can say what you want to about the writer or his views, but at least he has the guts to put his name to his writings, unlike others.

  5. Anonymous said,

    December 26, 2006 at 17:09

    Dear Desert Peace: since I did not have a blogger account I used the anonymous selection to post the message: the name is Dennis Lawrence by the way. Instead of making emotional accusations maybe you should focus more on the issues.

  6. DesertPeace said,

    December 26, 2006 at 17:17

    Thank you Mr. Lawrence…
    It seems we have a problem here, I did focus on the issues… it was you that raised others that have nothing to do with the rainstorm we are experiencing at the moment.
    You made your points, don’t expect me to agree with them.
    And there was nothing emotional in my original response to you.

  7. servant said,

    December 26, 2006 at 18:29

    Thanks so much for publishing this Steve. The best thing I’ve read in a long time. It validates things I’ve felt but could never articulate this well. The best thing he said is that Holocaust denial feeds into what the right needs to accomplish – which is to obscure Western efforts to expand there own interests at the expense of other people.

    Holocaust denial has the same effect upon our efforts for peace as suicide bombs and rockets fired at Israel. It makes it possible for people like Mr. Lawrence to point fingers and distract the focus from the real injustices that are taking place.

    I hope there are enough of us in the world who are aware that what Israel has done to Palestine and is doing to Palestine every day on an on-going basis is exactly the same as what happened to European Jews.

    And if we would not have stood by silently and watched while Jews were pulled out of their homes and compressed into ghettos, then we should not stand by now in silence while Israel makes life so miserable for Palestinians. Their real hope is that they will give up and leave.

    I hope Palestinians never give up. But I wish that the would stop providing excuses to Israel to torment them further under the fantastic notion that defending your home against an invading population can be characterized as “terrorism.” And I wish the Holocaust deniers would get smarter and focus on the real crime that is taking place.

    Europe just moved the problem of it’s own racism to Palestine by assisting Israel in appropriating land through illegal and immoral means.

    I don’t know what the answer is. But the first thing we should do is stop lying to each other. The next thing we should do is start thinking of the peace model was in place before the British and the French carved up the Middle East in 1916 with the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Both of these empires pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall and neither one of them can put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

    I have no idea why the United States always thinks it can clean up the messes made by previous empires, but we’re not serving justice by pretending that we are God’s gift to diplomacy.

    Arabs and Jews found lived together in peace before the European powers began playing there. We should look at removing the real root cause, which is Western hegemony over the region.

    It is in our interest to fuel these internecine feuds, not to solve them. We have a vested interest in perpetual war.

    It is up to the Arabs themselves to rationalize their own solutions to the problems created by Europe, just as it was up to India to throw the British out. Unfortunately, the Western interests will never let that happen. The U.S. will continue to fund any dictatorship and incite rivalries and play the tribes against one another in order to control the oil.

    The United States has never had any interest in peace. So why does everyone say, “When is the United States going to put an end to this?” It’s like asking when the cat is going to stop playing with the mouse.

    Thank you Steve for pressing forward on these important issues.

    Best regards.

  8. DesertPeace said,

    December 26, 2006 at 18:36

    Thank you Servant for the brilliant comment. There will always be people like our Anonymous ‘friend’ that will evade the issue or create new ones to direct attention away from the truth. That tactic will not work on this blog and the truth will continue to appear on these pages… and the truth WILL set us free.

  9. Ben Heine said,

    December 26, 2006 at 22:43

    Really bright article by Azmi Bishara, Steve, thanks for posting it.

    Denying the Jewish Holocaust is stupid and brings no solution to the growing hatred in the Middle East. But as Azmi recalls it, Arabs are not responsible for the Shoah.

  10. DesertPeace said,

    December 26, 2006 at 22:51

    Yes Ben, I thought the Bishara article was brilliant.

  11. lennybruce said,

    December 27, 2006 at 11:13

    DP,

    Very challenging article. Challenges pretty much every ‘myth’ most Jews grow up believing about the Holocaust and its relation to the founding of Israel and subsequent events.

    Because of the way we have ‘hijacked’ the Holocaust as our exclusive personal national tragedy – making it a one-dimensional story caused solely by that same old antisemitism that has haunted us for thousands of years – an incredible opportunity is lost to see, learn and teach about the Holocaust “as a sobering primer on the dangers of racism, extremist nationalist chauvinism and totalitarian social engineering in modern mass societies” as the author states.

    Instead, we have used the Holocaust a sort of carte blanche to excuse and justify that which is inexcusable and unjustifiable. In this way we pervert the lessons of the Holocaust and do a terrible disservice to all the victims of the Holocaust and in fact to all the victims (both human and conceptual) of Nazi ideology and the Nazi regime which of course encompassed far far more than the death camps alone. We could learn far much more from that period if it hadn’t been reduced to solely anti-semitism and Jewish victims. What was a universal human, political, philosophical, societal, ideological tragedy of immense proportions has become only a lesson in antisemitism and what it means to ‘us.’

  12. DesertPeace said,

    December 27, 2006 at 11:41

    Good to see you Lenny…
    I think it is just as wrong for Jews to ‘use’ the Holocaust as an excuse to commit attrocities as it is for anyone to deny it ever happened.
    All have to learn from it and work to guarantee that it never happens again anywhere… to anyone.

  13. Hopeful said,

    April 4, 2009 at 17:15

    A great article! The dialogue of comments is also very hopeful – better than the usual in other sites where personal attacks are the order of the day. Carry on the rational dialogue; it’s our only chance.


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