Smearing Sebastian Gorka Cheapens the Memory of the Holocaust

April 27 2017

Over the past month, a number of journalists have accused Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Trump, of support for or membership in a far-right, anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi Hungarian organization and thus, by implication, of being a Nazi sympathizer. The accusations have now been picked up and echoed by major media outlets and even by a member of Congress. Having repeatedly argued that the case against Gorka consists of evidential crumbs and innuendo, Liel Leibovitz writes about what is at stake:

I’ve never met Sebastian Gorka and don’t know much about his work on Islam or terrorism. What I object to—and what my interlocutors [on this subject] maddeningly refuse to engage with—is the effort to use history and Jewish memory, in particular the crimes of the Holocaust, in the service of partisan political tricks.  . . . To read the reporting [on Gorka], you’d believe that Vitézi Rend, the organization to which Gorka is accused—despite his repeated denials—of having “sworn” or “pledged” his “lifelong allegiance,” is an unequivocal stand-in for the SS. . . . But . . . Vitézi Rend was not a Nazi organization or even an organization made up [primarily] of Hungarians who favored the Nazis. . . .

The falsification of history, and especially the history of the Holocaust, is something that all Jews should object to because it is both the foundation and also the most frequent justification for Holocaust denialism. Indeed, it gives aid to Holocaust deniers—in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe—by using the same methods they do and giving credence to their loathsome rhetoric, which seeks to erase history by insisting that all crimes are the same, whatever their scale. . . .

Jewish history, memory, and identity are not and should never be allowed to become cheap political props. When activists take on the mantle of Anne Frank to bash the president, or when a reporter who traveled to Tehran at the Iranian government’s invitation and came back to report he’d found no anti-Semitism whatsoever lobs a manipulatively eliding accusation of Nazi affiliations against a public official, the sanctity of our past suffering is tarnished and our moral claim is reduced to a talking point. Nothing can be more dangerous or more loathsome. And nothing, regardless of your partisan orientation or feeling about Sebastian Gorka—or Donald Trump—should be resisted more fiercely.

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More about: American politics, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump, History & Ideas, Hungary, Nazism, Politics & Current Affairs

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC