On Holocaust Memorial Day, January 28, 1998, the keynote speech at the Bundestag in Germany was given by Yehuda Bauer, former Director of the Center for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vasham and Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He closed his discourse with this admonition:
“You…shall never become perpetrators. You..shall never allow yourselves to become victims. And you, your children and your children’s children shall never, but never, be passive onlookers to mass murder, genocide or…a Holocaust-like tragedy.”
In 2005, Bauer gave a series of lectures on anti-Semitism at Manoa University in Hawaii. Citing as a sign of hope an international conference on the Holocaust organized by the German government, Yehuda noted:
“It is not going to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, but it helps to create an atmosphere.”
By “atmosphere,” Professor Bauer meant a social disposition, educated and ethical, in the context of which it would no longer be acceptable to endorse anti-Semitism. Such a social setting would be incompatible with hatred of Jews, the expression of which would not be an indifferent academic exercise of “fair-mindedness.”
This idea of “creating an atmosphere” works both ways. The first Holocaust was preceded by the emergence of an anti-Jewish “atmosphere” in Germany. Whatever latent hatred of Jewish people already simmered in Europe, with the emergence of National Socialism, previously “enlightened, integrated” societies witnessed the advent of socially acceptable “cocktail-party” racism. There is no Genocide without its precedent, the atmosphere of anti-Semitism.
Obama’s National Security Advisor, James Jones began a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy with a joke entirely based on anti-Semitic stereotypes.
The Los Angeles Times hastened to condemn the arrest of 11 UC Irvine students who repeatedly interrupted a speech given by visiting Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren.
The news item here is not so much the campus-Muslim spewing “Death to the Jews,” but the complacent reaction of those who heard her.
Why? Because persecution of Jewish people does not only occur in places seething with open, vociferous hatred, though Jumanah Albahri clearly shows that clamoring for Jewish blood is anything but absent. In Rethinking the Holocaust, Bauer warns:
“I think that a pseudo-intellectual elite too over power in Germany, and it did so not because the masses supported their potentially genocidal ideology, but because there was a situation of a grave crisis which the potentially genocidal layer of leaders offered a way out of, in the form of a wonderful utopia.”
“The determining factor was that the layer of intellectuals…joined the Nazi Party because it promised them a future and a status. Through the fast-growing identification of these intellectuals with the regime, it because possible to have the genocide easily presented as an unavoidable stop toward the achievement of a utopian futures.”
“…the elite had absorbed a radical anti-Semitism…it proved easy for the genocidal Nazi layer of leaders to turn the majority of the German citizens into accomplices. A major role was played by academics. I keep returning to the question of whether we have intended learned anything, whether we do not still keep producing technically competent barbarians in our universities.”
Jumanah Albahri, James Jones, the Los Angeles Times editors, the “Irvine 11,” and their defender, Mark LeVine are barbarians because they can utter and defend the wish for Jewish annihilation.
The danger is that their desire for Jewish annihilation is tolerated in the name of preserving our personal “utopias,” our jobs, our daily lives, our reputations, our comfort level – anything that would be compromised by a true effort to affect the public atmosphere.
The increasingly anti-Israel, anti-Semitic atmosphere in which we live is, in essence, already apocalyptic. It illustrates the naivety of post-Holocaust human beings able to believe themselves immune from the flaws in our nature that perpetrated, submitted to, and collaborated during the first Shoah.
The atmosphere is repugnant in its self-congratulatory pride that we tolerate the death chants of Islam, or of virulent far-Right and far-Left denial of Israel’s right to exist because we are enlightened, romantically ready to die (or sacrifice millions of lives) for pluralism.
Freedom of Speech is indeed a Western value, but there are more profound, more ancient, more essential Western values; respect for objective truth and belief in the right to life. It is the dereliction of these values and the manipulation of Free Speech by our enemies that threatens to bring us to our ruin.
We cannot stop others from wishing to be perpetrators, but we must fight for truth and for life now, while we can, before a crisis provides the barbarians with the opportunity to convince society that the Jews, that Israel, are all that stand between us and their utopian solution to our problems. To dismiss this possibility is already to be a bystander.