Education about the Shoah Won’t Stop Anti-Semitism

April 5 2023

During the past half-century, Holocaust education has been assiduously promoted in the U.S. by Jewish organizations, by numerous museums and memorials, by countless well-meaning Gentiles, and by state and local governments. These undertakings always rest on a belief that Nazis’ slaughter of 6 million Jews conveys some important lesson or message, and American Jews tend to assume that teaching about the subject inoculates against anti-Semitism. But by most indications anti-Semitism appears to be on the rise, despite all this education. Dara Horn investigates:

The effort to transform the Holocaust into a lesson, coupled with the imperative to “connect it to today,” had at first seemed straightforward and obvious. After all, why learn about these horrible events if they aren’t relevant now? But the more I thought about it, the less obvious it seemed. What were students being taught to “take a stand” for? How could anyone, especially young people with little sense of proportion, connect the murder of 6 million Jews to today without landing in a swamp of Holocaust trivialization, like the COVID-protocol protesters who’d pinned Jewish stars to their shirts and carried posters of Anne Frank? Despite the protesters’ clear anti-Semitism (because, yes, it is anti-Semitic to use the mass murder of Jews as a prop), weren’t they and others like them doing exactly what Holocaust educators claimed they wanted people to do?

One problem with using the Holocaust as a morality play is exactly its appeal: it flatters everyone. We can all congratulate ourselves for not committing mass murder. This approach excuses current anti-Semitism by defining anti-Semitism as genocide in the past. When anti-Semitism is reduced to the Holocaust, anything short of murdering 6 million Jews—like, say, ramming somebody with a shopping cart, or taunting kids at school, or shooting up a Jewish nonprofit, or hounding Jews out of entire countries—seems minor by comparison.

But a larger problem emerges when we ignore the realities of how anti-Semitism works. If we teach that the Holocaust happened because people weren’t nice enough—that they failed to appreciate that humans are all the same, for instance, or to build a just society—we create the self-congratulatory space where anti-Semitism grows. One can believe that humans are all the same while being virulently anti-Semitic, because according to anti-Semites, Jews, with their millennia-old insistence on being different from their neighbors, are the obstacle to humans all being the same.

One can believe in creating a just society while being virulently anti-Semitic, because according to anti-Semites, Jews, with their imagined power and privilege, are the obstacle to a just society. To inoculate people against the myth that humans have to erase their differences in order to get along, and the related myth that Jews, because they have refused to erase their differences, are supervillains, one would have to acknowledge that these myths exist. To really shatter them, one would actually have to explain the content of Jewish identity, instead of lazily claiming that Jews are just like everyone else.

Read more at Atlantic

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Holocaust Museums


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship