In his reflections on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the British novelist and essayist Howard Jacobson urges Jews not to internalize the messages of today’s anti-Semitism, which so often come in the form of anti-Zionism:
The modern anti-Semite is more subtle than his great-grandparents. He doesn’t smash our windows or our bones. He insinuates himself into consciences that are already troubled and works on spirits that are already half-broken. And we are too responsive to his serpent insinuations. When the history of Jew-hating in our time comes to be written, Jewish collusion in it will feature heavily. . . .
To the question, . . . “How do any of us, as Jews, fulfill the great task imposed on us [by the memory of the Holocaust]?,” here is my part-answer: stop apologizing and resist the sirens who would lure you onto the rocks of guilt and self-dislike, singing of Jewish materialism, Jewish legalism, Jewish exclusivism, Jewish supremacism, Jewish imperialism, Zionism. . . .
[A]lthough we intone the words “never again”—now as a prayer, now as a supplication, now as a commitment—we cannot rid ourselves of the fear that it, or something like it, might indeed happen again. . . . [W]e now accept that it was wild fantasy to hope that after the Holocaust we’d be left alone. . . . But we thought anti-Semitism itself might take a short break. . . . What no one could have expected was the speed with which they found a way round any such compunctions, not least by denying that anything had happened at all. Holocaust—what Holocaust? . . .
But it’s not those obsessive “deniers” who trouble Jacobson the most; rather it’s those who wish to relativize the Holocaust by means of invidious comparisons:
[There is a] moral seesaw on which Holocaust relativists love to frolic—the contestable atrocity that was the Holocaust now rising, now falling, but always ultimately outweighed by the incontestable outrage that is Zionism. . . .
“Never again” is the sacred promise we gather annually to reaffirm. It must be more than a mere wish. It binds us in the necessity to be strong-minded and alert. And that means alert, above all, to the words those with hatred in their hearts employ to exploit the guilt in ours.
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