On Wednesday evening and Thursday, Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day—a somber and deeply authentic commemoration of the victims of the Nazi genocide. Ceremonies are held, places of entertainment are closed, and TV and radio almost solely offer Holocaust documentaries, discussions, and interviews with survivors.
This year’s commemoration was marred by an incident in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening in which a car hit two pedestrians. One of them, 25-year-old Shalom Yohai Sherki, was killed; the other, a 20-year-old woman, was seriously injured. Police now strongly suspect that the driver of the car, a 37-year-old Palestinian Arab from the Jerusalem area, acted out of terrorist motives.
Among other things, they note that last fall saw a spate of car-ramming terror attacks in the Jerusalem area.
If the incident was an attack, then it can be assumed to have been timed for Holocaust Remembrance Day—a ubiquitous phenomenon that, if you’re in Israel, you simply can’t miss.
Attacking Jews on a commemorative day is nothing new in the history of this conflict. On October 6, 1973, the Egyptian and Syrian armies attacked Israel on the morning of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. On March 27, 2002, a Palestinian Arab suicide bomber infiltrated a Passover seder in a Netanya hotel and killed thirty.
Attacking Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day is, perhaps, a new nuance. But it is not a nuance that packs any sort of surprise—especially not when the Holocaust itself is under attack.
It’s under attack in the form of Holocaust denial, and also in the form of Holocaust inversion, which claims that Israeli Jews are the new Nazis and are perpetrating genocide against the Palestinian Arabs. Surveys in this millennium have found large numbers of Europeans touting Holocaust inversion—including a 2008 poll where 63% of Poles, 49% of Portuguese, and 48% of Germans agreed that Israel was committing genocide.
The Holocaust is also under attack in the form of international festivals of Holocaust denial and Holocaust ridicule organized by the Iranian regime—now, of course, the latest “peace” interlocutor of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
In August 2006, Tehran held a “Holocaust International Cartoon Conference.” Later that year, in December, it sponsored a Holocaust-denial conference. And this May, with the nuclear talks in full swing, Tehran—despite the blatantly antisemitic President Ahmadinejad having been replaced by the purportedly moderate President Rouhani—will be holding yet another Holocaust-cartoon conference.
Antisemitism, in other words, is a particularly virulent kind of hatred. So far as I know, there is no phenomenon of denial of the Cambodian or the Rwandan genocide; nor are the victimized peoples systematically accused of being genocidists themselves; nor are these genocides the subject of international cartoon contests. Antisemitism, with its deep roots in Western and Islamic civilization, appears to be in a class by itself as a form of dementia.
Such somber reflections are borne out by findings that in 2014 antisemitic attacks spiked by 38%, with Jews around the world—and particularly in Western Europe—facing an “explosion of hatred.” As usual, targets of attack included Jewish synagogues, schools, and cemeteries; the urge to attack even those buried in their graves appears to be another special aspect of antisemitism.
All these forms of hatred are most pervasive of all in the Middle East. As many have noted, in this region the notion that the Holocaust is a hoax perpetrated by “Zionists” blithely coexists with the notion that Israelis are the “new Nazis,” without awareness of contradiction. Wednesday evening’s presumed car-ramming attack was both a hate crime individually committed by the attacker and a product of near-monolithic antisemitic indoctrination, of which the Palestinian Authority is a practitioner par excellence.
Seventy years after the defeat of the Nazis, there are gleams of light as well. Israel is appreciated as a brilliantly creative innovator in hi-tech, medicine, agriculture, and other fields, enjoys booming trade and cooperative relations with a wide variety of countries and regions, and enjoys the strong support of Congress and the American people. But to say that, seventy years after the reality of the Nazi camps shocked the liberating armies and the world, antisemitism has been renounced and the lessons learned would be, sadly, an inversion of the truth.
The democracies’ willingness to treat the Holocaust-desecrating, Holocaust-threatening Iranian regime as a rational, constructive interlocutor is the strongest indication that nothing has been learned and we’re back where we were.
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