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 Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey