Using the Holocaust to Bash Israel

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In the never-ending quest amongst Middle East studies academics to demonize Israel, a trendy new approach has appeared: employing the Holocaust.

A recent lecture co-sponsored by UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies, “Traumatic Memory Discourses in Israel: Holocaust History, Territory and Self-Critique,” fit the pattern. It was delivered by Joseph Rosen, a postdoctoral fellow in Montreal at Concordia University’s department of history & the Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence.

Rosen’s emphasis on the “cultural production of the memories of violence in relation to contemporary sites of suffering and oppression” was intended to explain the Arab-Israeli conflict from a psychological standpoint. Stated briefly, it holds that Israelis are so paranoid about a second Holocaust that they exaggerate the nature of threats and, in response, overreact. As a result, Israeli self-defense is conditioned not by facts on the ground, such as terrorism or openly genocidal enemies, but by irrational fear.

His audience consisted of 15 people, of whom only three appeared to be students. Rosen came across as a sincere, likable individual, which made his presentation all the more threatening. He spoke in a friendly manner and clearly believed what he said. But being well-intentioned did not make him any less wrong.

Rosen began by stating unambiguously that, “Israelis construct memories of violence for political purposes” and by providing examples from two groups: the “settlers” and the “refuseniks.”

As to what he described as the “territorialization of Holocaust memory,” Rosen claimed that at some point, “the memories become complicit.” As he put it, “fear of a second Holocaust leads to continued occupation.”

He bolstered his case with several examples of Israelis using inflammatory language against each. Citing the disengagement from Gaza under then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Rosen stated that:

The settlers were wearing armbands. They compared the Holocaust to the Gaza withdrawal. There were graffiti attacks on Sharon. He was called the [sic] Jewish word for ‘collaborator’ [kapo].

Apparently, it was lost on Rosen that the Gaza pullout was relatively peaceful; even the most ardent settlers ended up hugging the soldiers who were removing them. Collaborators in Palestinian Gaza fare much worse: summary execution.

Rosen quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—incorrectly it turns out—as saying that “Withdrawing from the settlements was the equivalent of making Europe Jew-free.” He went on:

In 1952, Israel refused to negotiate with Germany over reparations. Menachem Begin compared reparations to another Holocaust. Jews accusing each other of being Nazis goes way back.

Rosen then contrasted the different time periods:

In 1952 the armbands [yellow armbands worn by those protesting against reparations from Germany] were for a non-economical end. In 2005 they served a material end, that being territory.

He claimed that, “During the 1967 War, fear of annihilation was disclosed as a second Holocaust. This is a result of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial.” Because of the horrible visuals of the Eichmann trial, “Holocaust ‘remembrance’ was repressed. . . . [This] then gave Israel a connection and they were able to identify with the survivors.”

Rosen’s theory fails the test of logic. The fear of annihilation in 1967 was based on not only the Holocaust two decades earlier, but on the creation of Israel in 1948, which was met with a very real attempt at annihilation on the part of the Arabs.

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  • Andres de Alamaya

    Mr. Rosen's upbringing had traumatized him and he seem to be trying to work his way out of a very troubled psyche, rationalizing illogically to find solutions to his mental problems. He would do himself a favor by seeing a psychiatrist.

    • Therese Dvir

      Exactly what came into my mind… he needs a psychiatrist and urgently….

    • ajnn

      He does describe himself as being traumatized by his parents experience.

  • kafir4life

    Maybe he'll show his sincerity by leading the way to the gas chambers.

  • Beverley

    He is just another STUPID.

  • MacDaddy31

    Just because a theory may exist, does not mean it has any real substantial merit. I think this is a liberal weakness to come up with arguments and positions such as this and promote them just because they exist and because they help deal better with the unpleasantries of the world despite counter-arguments typically having more common sense, evidence to support and logic.

  • rivka lissak

    I was born in Israel in 1933 and I can tell my nightmares were not on the holocaust but on the violent activities of the Arabs against Jews during the British Mandate.
    I can tell about the violent activities of the Arabs during the War of Independence.
    I can tell about the violent activities of Arabs sent to Israel from Gaza when it was under Egyptian occupation.
    I can tell about the violent terrorist attacks against civilians on buses, in coffee restorants, on rockets on civilian homes.

    All this has nothing to do with the holocaust:most Israelis were born in Israel and many of then have parents from Arab countries- not Europe.
    I am an historian and I can tell the thesis is not based on evidence. Its politization of history

  • ajnn

    "We have to think beyond concepts of intentionality and morality". This is where Rosen loses me.

    If we take intentions and morality out of our analysis, are we not reducuing everyone to an 'animal' functioning only through instinct and emotions?

    This is gibberish and an insult to everyone who makes an honest effort to understand the world and help our country (the united states) act with morality in furtherance of the legitimate interests of the united states.

  • xtb3

    canadian/quebec tax dollars pay for this leftist useful idiot garbage(carrying a death wish for himself) to have a well paid job! disgusting.

  • Yossi Malmstein

    The immaturity of these insults shows the average intelligence of Front Page readers.

    • aspacia

      Refute their claims and avoid ad hom attacks to gain credibility.

      • Texrat

        Many of the comments are ad hominem, sooo…

  • ed wolf

    a must read!!

  • John

    Paranoid about another Holocaust????? If I was Jewish, in light of the new anti-semitism coming from so many corners of the earth, I'd be paranoid for sure. However, I'd also be darn sure I was alerting everyone and doing everything within my means to make certain it didn't happen again. Paranoid. With good reason. Just because you might be paranoid doesn't mean you don't have a reason to be.

  • George Jochnowitz

    Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was quoted in the Lebanese Daily Star in 2002 as encouraging Jews to move to Israel. “If they gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide”. The issue for Nasrallah is not the continuing existence of Israel but rather the troubling presence of Jews in the world.

  • northwoods

    We have come full circle. Former Chief Rabbi Yosef ,leader of the Shaa Party, in the government claims that non-Jews were created, like donkeys, to serve the Jews. A nice Hitleresque view of a Jewish "master race". The government was silent on his comments. The Shaa's and the settlers believe these views. One can only wonder how many other Israelis do.

    • MixMChess

      You are a liar northwoods. The Israeli government (Netanyahu himself) and nearly every mainstream Israeli and Jewish organization condemned Rabbi Yosef and others on the "far right."

      Only a small portion of the settlers follow Rabbi Yosef. In fact, violence against Palestinians has been harshly condemned by leading religious figures among the settlers, including Rabbi Menachem Froman who said: "Targeting Palestinians and their property is a shocking thing, (…) It's an act of hurting humanity. (…) This builds a wall of fire between Jews and Arabs." Additionally, "the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Yesha Council and former Knesset member and settler Hanan Porat has also condemned violence against Palestinians."

      The vast majority of Israelis are moderate. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found that less than 8% of Israelis identify themselves as Ultra-Orthodox and that the political and religious views of the that group were incredibly diverse.

      Be gone neo-Nazi.