Carlo Strenger
Haaretz (Opinion)
January 25, 2012 - 1:00am

The Holocaust is one of humanity’s most terrible historical episodes and the greatest horror that has befallen the Jewish people. It must be remembered and it must be studied.

Distinguished Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt has made it her life’s work to document, analyze and research the holocaust. She has condemned the ultra-Orthodox Jews who have called Israeli police Nazis, donned concentration camp clothing and the yellow star to protest simple law enforcement. She condemned settlers who have called Israeli soldiers Nazis, and she has also condemned Glenn Beck’s outrageous claim that George Soros collaborated with the Nazis during WWII.

The Holocaust must, by no means, be used for political purposes. Never, and by no one.
It is time for Benjamin Netanyahu to stop misusing the Holocaust. I want to make it very clear: I do not compare Netanyahu’s use of the Holocaust to either the obscene abuse of Holocaust paraphernalia by Haredi demonstrators, nor to Glenn Beck’s smearing of George Soros.

But in order to protect the memory of the holocaust, Netanyahu must stop using it as a trump card to score political points. Doing so cheapens the Holocaust; it clouds the mind, and it distorts historical and political judgment.

Last week the world commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the Wannsee conference at which the Final Solution of the Jewish Question was formally adopted.

Netanyahu’s reaction: “The Israeli government has the right, duty and capability to prevent the elimination of the Jewish people and the Jewish state…. "There is no lack of bitter enemies today," Netanyahu said. "The will to destroy the Jewish people has not changed. What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves and our determination to do so."

This is precisely the type of overblown rhetoric that ultimately cheapens the Holocaust. Yes, the Iranian regime time and again threatens that it will erase what they call “The Zionist entity” off the map. Yes, anti-Semitism has not disappeared from the world. It is one of the many malignant forms of prejudice created by the primitive strata of the human mind.

Does this mean that the Jewish people are under threat of extinction? From Ehud Barak to Meir Dagan, Israel’s leading security specialists have, time and again, made clear that even if Iran were to attain the bomb, this would not endanger Israel’s existence.

Anti-Semitism in all its forms is to be condemned, exposed and persecuted. But to keep warning that the next holocaust is around the corner is intellectually dishonest, morally problematic and politically unwise.

It is intellectually dishonest, because there is no evidence for it. Yes, it is true that there are new forms of anti-Semitism, particularly in the Islamic world. But does that mean that Jews are in danger of extinction? Robert Wistrich is probably the world’s foremost scholar of anti-Semitism, and he keeps arguing that we must be vigilant in exposing all its manifestations. But even Wistrich does not think that Iran or Islamic anti-Semitism of today can or should be compared to the Holocaust.

Netanyahu’s use of the Holocaust is morally problematic. By bringing it up, time and again, he implies that he is the savior that protects the Jewish people from extinction, whereas his political opponents are not sufficiently alert to the Jewish people’s survival. He also makes it sound as if only his policy can protect Israel. Lately not only his political opponents like Tzipi Livni have criticized this tactic. Even Likud MK and Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin has taken Netanyahu to task for overusing the Holocaust.

Netanyahu’s strategy is also politically unwise. In off-the-record conversations, European and American politicians and diplomats often express annoyance at Netanyahu’s constant attempts to manipulate the world by engendering feelings of guilt. European politicians are well aware of the Holocaust and some of their countries’ highly problematic behavior in WWII; they do not need to be reminded of it. Netanyahu’s manipulations do nothing to engender loyalty to Israel. If anything, they drive away friends.

Netanyahu is not the only politician prone to overblown rhetoric meant to stir emotions, but he is pushing the limits of what is intellectually and morally acceptable. The Holocaust is not his private property, and he must stop using it for narrow political gain.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017