In a brief review of the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy’s recent The Genius of Judaism, an unnamed author at the New Yorker points to the “real contradiction” between Lévy’s insistence that the Holocaust was a “crime without parallel” and his objection to the recent fad of “competitive victimhood.” James Kirchick assails the shoddy and “sinister” thinking behind this comment:
The New Yorker has it backwards. The competition for victimhood wasn’t started by Jews but in reaction to them. The issue is not minimizing other historical tragedies in relation to the Holocaust but minimizing the Holocaust in relation to other historical tragedies. This is not just the realm of Holocaust deniers, but increasingly of progressives who, whether through conscious malice or sheer naiveté, speak of the Holocaust (when they’re not speaking of “holocausts”) as but one unfortunate episode among many, not a world-historical crime that singled out Jews first and foremost. . . .
If those like the New Yorker’s anonymous book critic believe that Lévy is engaging in unseemly “competitive victimhood” simply by claiming that the Holocaust, in both nature and degree, was worse than any other crime in human history, that’s because [the critic] falsely interprets such claims as entries into a victim competition—when, in fact, it is those challenging the singularity of the Holocaust who are responsible for creating this obscene contest. . . .
The review’s sinister element comes in its accusation that Jews like Lévy are responsible for corrupting the commemoration of history and not, say, the Muslim propagandists who frequently invoke the Holocaust to equate Israelis with Nazis or the British student activists who voted against recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day because doing so “prioritizes some lives over others.” As the British sociologist David Hirsch observes, “When people get competitive about the Holocaust, they do it by accusing the Jews of being competitive.” Not even in talking about something so grave as the Holocaust can the Jews avoid being pushy, it seems.
More about: Bernard-Henri Levy, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Holocaust inversion, New Yorker