CEO and Dir. of U.N. Affairs Op-ed in Newsweek: Holocaust Comparisons Are Holocaust Denial. It Has to Stop.
Newsweek published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels urging members of Congress and all others to stop trivializing the Holocaust to score cheap political points.
The Holocaust is once again being trivialized in the name of the politics. On Wednesday, Ohio Congressman Warren Davidson compared COVID restrictions to the Nazis' treatment of Jews. "This has been done before. #DoNotComply," he tweeted.
The Congressman joins a long list of those reaching for the Holocaust for such cheap political points. In June, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene compared wearing a mask to wearing a yellow star and had to apologize. In November, Lara Logan compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to Joseph Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who did cruel experiments on Jews in concentration camps.
Across the globe, things are even worse; outright Holocaust denial is spreading like a virus. Earlier this week, outside a church in central Rome, a funeral concluded with a coffin draped in a Nazi flag, surrounded by participants giving Nazi salutes. In Iran, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, often tweets things like "why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust?" and "#Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain." In 2019, right before attempting a mass-carnage attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, a gunman livestreamed a video in which he said, "I think the Holocaust never happened."
The Holocaust—the most documented and systematic genocide in history—took the lives of two-thirds of European Jews. Among our own family members, in Poland and Lithuania, most were wiped out: innocent men, women and children.
Of the Jews who managed to survive, all are now at least 77 years old, and thousands are dying each year. That trend has likely been accelerated by the ongoing pandemic. And if Holocaust-denial can persist even as first-hand witnesses to the atrocities are among us, we can only imagine how malignant these pathologies will become once the survivors pass on.
The correlation between denial of past atrocities and indifference to new atrocities is clear. Whether it comes from the extreme right or radical Islamists, antisemites uniquely belittle or justify the Holocaust while also belittling or justifying current and prospective violence against Jews.
Of course, distortion or instrumentalization of the Holocaust is not new. Among white supremacists, denial of the Nazi gas chambers' existence has been an article of faith. Even in America, certain local legislators or educators were recently found to have urged "neutrality" in teaching about Nazism. In parts of the Baltics, the whitewashing and lionizing of Nazi collaborators has been commonplace. And through much of the Middle East, the Holocaust has long been tarred as a "Zionist myth" alongside a false narrative that Palestinians paid the price for Germans' misdeeds with the invention of a "colonial" Israel by foreigners.
And whether at the United Nations or street demonstrations, bigots wholly rejecting the history and legitimacy of a Jewish minority presence in the Middle East have sought to add insult to injury by weaponizing the Holocaust, saying Hitler hadn't gone far enough or that Israel is guilty of Nazi-like practices.
At a 2001 U.N. conference against racism in Durban, South Africa, activists asserted both. A decade later, Iran's president hosted Holocaust-denial conferences and cartoon competitions, attracting such luminaries as former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, a newfound champion of Palestinian nationalism.
A few years later, Malaysia's then-prime minister—a self-identified antisemite who had called Jews "hook-nosed" and said they "rule the world by proxy"—questioned the number of Holocaust victims. And during outbreaks of Hamas or Hezbollah hostilities with Israel, social media platforms have facilitated an unprecedented spread of hateful lies concerning Israelis, Jews and the Holocaust, with negligible intervention by those profiting from them.
Next week, the U.N. will have an opportunity to help more seriously address the scourge of historical revisionism. 15 years after the U.N. began marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a resolution on Holocaust-denial and distortion will come up for a vote. We hope member states will join in adopting an important working definition of Holocaust-denial, as well as, ultimately, an equally vital working definition of antisemitism.
While combating trivialization of the Holocaust is only one element of strengthening basic societal norms, it is a critical one. Let it be said once more: those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Newsweek published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels regarding the anniversary of the U.N. Zionism-is-racism resolution and the constant fight against anti-Jewish gaslighting.
Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest and most lethal forms of hate. It remains especially versatile, and is able to emerge from unexpected quarters.
Over the course of centuries, Jews have alternately been hated as being too rich and too poor, too strong and too weak, too religious and too secular, too conservative and too liberal, too alike and too different.
Since Roman conquerors forced most into exile nearly two millennia ago, Jews have also been hated for being dispersed. And since 1948, they have been hated for the revival of their small ancestral homeland: Israel.
In Europe, my grandparents, who survived the Holocaust, heard cries of "Jews, back to Palestine" only to rear grandchildren who endure calls of "Jews, out of Palestine."
Adding insult to injury, Israel and its friends have been tarred by some as inherently racist themselves.
At the United Nations—where Arab and allied countries hold an automatic majority—Israel is routinely condemned more than all other 192 member states combined. UN bias reached its peak 45 years ago with Resolution 3379. On November 10, 1975, the UN General Assembly singled out only Zionism—Jews' movement for independence—as "racist."
Chaim Herzog, Israel's UN ambassador and later president, tore up the resolution and decried the "ignorance" that enabled it. At the time, he said:
You dare talk of racism when I can point with pride to the Arab ministers who have served in my government; to the Arab deputy speaker of my Parliament; to Arab officers and men serving of their own volition in our defense, border and police forces, frequently commanding Jewish troops; to the hundreds of thousands of Arabs from all over the Middle East crowding the cities of Israel every year; to the thousands of Arabs from all over the Middle East coming for medical treatment to Israel; to the peaceful coexistence which has developed; to the fact that Arabic is an official language in Israel on a par with Hebrew; to the fact that it is as natural for an Arab to serve in public office in Israel as it is incongruous to think of a Jew serving in any public office in any Arab country, indeed being admitted to many of them. Is that racism? It is not. That is Zionism.
In a rarity, the UN revoked the Zionism-is-racism resolution in 1991—leading to new breakthroughs in Arab-Israeli relations. But its odious legacy has persisted. Ten years later, a UN anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, implied that only one country—Israel—is racist, and the gathering produced scenes of outright anti-Semitism that shocked even UN officials. More recently, some political activists have sought to exploit the Black Lives Matter movement by having it stigmatize the world's only Jewish state—the Middle East's sole democracy—as comparable to South Africa during apartheid.
Yet Jews have been at the very forefront of the struggle for Black civil rights. Israelis come in all colors. And it is not by chance that anti-Semitism and racism are perennially interwoven.
Palestinians and Israelis are divided over security and land—not racial ideology or difference.
At a time of alarming polarization, facts are as essential as ever. Accuracy matters. While simplistic narratives can make for punchier slogans than complex realities can, claims based on fiction do nothing to make our world better or more just. Smear tactics can be tempting, but we must resist such temptations when they distort rather than illuminate.
False accusations of "Zionist" racism—along with attempts to preempt pushback by asserting that Jews dismiss all reproach as anti-Semitic—undermine the very cause of fighting bigotry. And there are few causes more urgent.
Anti-Jewish gaslighting is wrong. Demonizing or delegitimizing Israelis is as indefensible as it would be to target a diverse population of any other nationality.
Zionists are women and men, left-wing and right-wing, Jews and Christians, people of Middle Eastern background and all other backgrounds. What they hold in common is simply the belief that Israel has a right to exist, be safe and have equality. The overwhelming majority of the global community is—in a word—Zionist.
There is nothing more discriminatory about Israel's Jewish identity and symbols than the Christian or Muslim identity and symbols of dozens of countries worldwide.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews." Those purporting to combat prejudice must never tolerate it themselves.
In the News
B'nai B'rith International is the Global Voice of the Jewish Community.
All rights reserved. Stories are attributed to the original copyright holders.