Revolution #213, October 10, 2010

Question: Does the Holocaust Justify the Dispossession of the Palestinian People?

For many the "bottom-line" argument for the state of Israel is this: the Jewish people, worldwide, need a state to which they can go for protection should another nation take up Hitler’s project of extermination of the Jews.

Let us state in no uncertain terms that the Holocaust was clearly one of the great crimes of modern history. But on a very basic moral level: how does a crime against one people (the Jews) committed by the government of another (the Germans)—no matter how horrific that crime—justify the dispossession, exile, constant humiliation and oppression, and denial of self-determination to a third (the Palestinians)? It does not and it cannot. An argument could perhaps be made that, as part of the post-war reconstruction of Europe and as part of reparations for these horrendous crimes, provisions should have been made to enable the Jewish people to choose some form of autonomy or self-determination within Eastern Europe, using German lands and resources to carry this out; but this argument was not only never seriously entertained by the victorious powers at the time, but when someone like the journalist Helen Thomas commits the unpardonable sin of mentioning this notion, as she did a few months ago, she is immediately subjected to public humiliation and career death.1

To approach this question another way, the slogan "Never Again" can be taken in two ways. One way is that "never again shall it be allowed that crimes against humanity can go on and people will be able to plead ignorance or impotence as an excuse for doing nothing to stop those crimes"; the other way is to say that "never again will my people be fucked over, and anything that is done to justify preventing that is allowable." There is a world of difference between those two moral stands.

Further, let’s look at the historical context of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was part of a "larger project." The Nazi regime conflated Judaism and communism; that is, the Nazis rolled them into one big enemy, the so-called Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy. The Nazis regarded the communist project of emancipation—which included the abolition of anti-Semitism—as utterly intolerable and evil; the participation of some Jews in this project only added to their hatred. As the Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, the counter-revolutionary forces from among the Soviet citizenry which supported them were the same ones who eagerly assisted in the extermination of the Jews and the murder of communists.

This part of World War 2 was, in a real sense, a fight between two different visions of what it meant to be human. Whatever the shortcomings of the socialist Soviet Union at that time, two different worlds based on two different visions confronted each other, captured in the respective watchwords of their movements: "Deutschland Uber Alles" ("Germany Over All") versus the emancipation of all humanity. For this among other reasons, the "Eastern Front" (where the Soviet Red Army defeated the great majority of the German Wehrmacht [war machine]) was a war zone of particular ruthlessness. Very few Americans know that, in addition to the six million Jews pitilessly exterminated by the Nazis, the German army was responsible for the deaths of some 28 million Soviet citizens! (And here, too, when someone mentions that inconvenient truth—as Oliver Stone did a few months back2—they too are be publicly pilloried.)

So long as imperialism exists, the majority of nations and peoples will be oppressed by a relative minority of dominant nations. It is important and valuable and just—in fact, it is absolutely necessary—that people stand up to that oppression, refuse to tolerate it, resist it, and work to abolish it. But if that turns into a fight for national rights at the expense of another people’s rights, then it is not so fine—then it is on the road to very quickly becoming reactionary. The only way to be finally sure that there will be no more genocides, of any kind and against any people, is to abolish imperialism itself—to, yes, emancipate all humanity, and nothing less.

1. In the course of a May 27, 2010 "interview" outside the White House by a pro-Israel rabbi, Helen Thomas said Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine..." Within hours, the 89-year-old Thomas, long known as Dean of the White House press corps, had been forced by media pillorying, pro-Israel organizations, and the Obama administration into retirement. For more, see Revolution #203, June 12, 2010, or [back]

2. In a July 25, 2010 interview with London’s Times, filmmaker Oliver Stone said that Hitler might have done "far more damage" by killing 25-30 million Soviet citizens during World War 2 than by killing six million Jews. When asked why he thought there was so much more emphasis on the Holocaust than on the deaths of tens of millions of Soviet citizens, Stone said it was mainly because of a powerful Jewish lobby within the U.S. Coming under fierce attack by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee and other pro-Zionist organizations, Stone clarified his remarks, saying he did not intend in any way to belittle the atrocity that was the Holocaust. [back]

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