International Holocaust Remembrance Day fell this week on Wednesday. If the day is supposed to serve an educational function, it has largely been a failure.
It was also reported this week that “More than 40% of European Union citizens hold anti-Semitic views and agree with the claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians and behaving like the Nazis….” The data come from Israel’s official anti-Semitism report for 2015.
The 40% figure is consistent with earlier findings. A 2011 study by the University of Beilefeld in Germany found 48% of Germans and 63% of Poles agreeing that Israel was carrying out a war of extermination against the Palestinians; the lowest figures were 38% and 39% for Italy and the Netherlands respectively. Polls of Germans in 2013 and 2014 came up with similar numbers.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been marked for about a decade, along with other commemorations and educational efforts. The upshot is that large numbers of citizens of Europe—the continent where the Holocaust occurred—are unable to tell the difference between the deliberate extermination of six million people and an armed conflict whose death tolls, on both sides, are in the thousands.
Even for many of those who seem able to acknowledge the nature and magnitude of the Holocaust, the notion that, seventy years later, Jews have transformed from victims to victimizers appears irresistible.
On Tuesday, one day before this year’s remembrance day for the genocide, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians—all of which I condemn—and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, have continued to claim lives…. Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”
Ban’s words sparked outraged responses in Israel.
The Palestinian “knife intifada” that began in October has most recently seen a spate of stabbing attacks on Israeli women. On January 17, Dafna Meir, a 38-year-old mother of six, was stabbed to death. On January 18, Michal Froman, 30 years old and pregnant, was stabbed and wounded. On January 25, Shlomit Krigman, 24, was stabbed to death.
It has been clear to Israelis since the knife intifada began that it is regarded differently from all other terrorism now occurring in the world. Terrorists always claim grievances; terrorists attacking the U.S. and European countries claim, for instance, to be reacting to military operations in Muslim lands or public mockeries of Muslim pieties. But it is generally understood that—whether and to what degree grievances are real—the murder of civilians is just that, murder, a crime that nothing mitigates.
When it comes, though, to repeated murderous attacks by Palestinians on Israelis, both Western media outlets and Western officials treat the phenomenon as—at best—a squabble between two sides.
Among countless examples, after the abovementioned fatal stabbing of Shlomit Krigman, Britain’s The Guardian blared: “Two Palestinians shot dead after knife attack in West Bank shop.” Last week Dan Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel, engaged in some Ban Ki-moon type moral equivalency, condemning Palestinian “barbaric acts of terrorism” but balancing it with a litany of harsh, unsubstantiated criticisms of Israeli policy.
The notion that today’s Israeli Jews can never just be victims and never just defend themselves from attacks, while helping to generate distorted media portrayals and U.S. and European political pressures, may not harm Israel much so long as it is not engaged in outright wars. Indeed, less than seven decades after its establishment the Jewish state keeps developing its outsize capabilities in a broad spectrum of fields and keeps building its diplomatic, trade, and security relations with a wider and wider range of countries, including those, like India and China, that are less susceptible to the Western neurotic preoccupations with Jews and Palestinians.
During Israel’s recent wars, however, against genocidal, Iranian-backed terror organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas that are bent on its destruction, the skewed Western attitudes have come to the fore. Loud denunciations, demands for “restraint,” and charges of “disproportionality” culminated in the Obama administration’s cutoff of arms to Israel at the height of the summer 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza.
As terror groups from Hamas to Hezbollah to the Nusra Front to ISIS keep massing and arming on Israel’s borders, with war a substantial possibility, it remains to be seen whether—at the moment of truth—Israel can get Western backing, instead of castigations and punishment, when fighting those for whom Holocaust remembrance days are a goal.