Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2012
On January 20, 1942, the Nazi leadership gathered in a villa on the outskirts of Berlin and adopted the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” The Wannsee Conference, as this became known, from the suburb where the meeting was held, formalized the process that exterminated so much of European Jewry. As we mark the 70th anniversary of that 90-minute meeting in which 15 people condemned millions to death, there are many crucial lessons to learn from the Holocaust.…
Firstly, the killing of a people begins not with violence, but through race-based hatred, progressing to institutionalized discrimination and only then culminating in murder. This is why anti-Semitism, racism and institutionalized discrimination must be addressed, for if left to fester the consequences can be tragic, severe and widespread.
Secondly, the Nazis may have come to power hating Jews, and by the time they launched World War II virulent anti-Semitism was a central policy, but they neither came to power nor launched World War II with the aim of exterminating European Jewry. Hitler wanted Europe “Judenrein” but it was only after plans to deport Jews to places such as Madagascar failed and no one else was willing to accept these Jewish refugees, and only after the mass killing by bullets failed to raise the ire of the local international community, that the Nazis felt they had the green light to take genocide to an unprecedented place.
Today, as Europe teeters on the edge of an economic abyss, as the movement of refugees and asylum seekers literally racing to cross borders soars on a daily basis, and as anti-Semitism evolves and shows no sign of abating, it is imperative that the evolution, nature and consequences of the Holocaust remain clear.
But Holocaust memory is under unprecedented attack.… New trends in denial are alive and well in new-accession member states of the European Union, particularly the three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, with much support from rightwing political forces in Hungary, the Czech Republic and others. Articulated in the 2008 Prague Declaration, and actively pursued by the leadership of a number of Eastern European Union states, the “Prague Process” (as the Prague Declaration is referred to by its proponents) has been active in the European Union, most notably securing passage of a 2009 resolution calling for all of Europe to enact a single day of commemoration for Nazi and Soviet crimes. Other dangerous proposals being pushed include the effort to “overhaul” textbooks throughout the European Union to ensure “equal treatment” of Nazi and Soviet crimes, and efforts to criminalize the opinion that the Nazi Holocaust was the only genocide in 20th-century Europe.
Historical experience has made Jews empathetic to the suffering of others, and indeed the East European countries suffered brutally under four decades of Soviet rule. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs, were deported, were forced into labor camps by Communist regimes whose cruelty was beyond doubt… But there was no Soviet genocide. There was no Soviet Holocaust. By blurring the definition of genocide, that earth-shattering term loses its meaning. If everything is genocide then nothing is genocide.
To mark the anniversary of Wannsee and to counter the dangerous trends in Europe today, I have released the Seventy Years Declaration on the Anniversary of the Final Solution at Wannsee, together with Professor Dovid Katz, author of the DefendingHistory.com blog. The declaration has been signed by over 70 parliamentarians from 19 European Union countries, including three former Europe foreign ministers, two vice presidents of the European Parliament and a vice president of the Bundestag. In addition to remembering the Final Solution plan with “humility and sadness,” the declaration explicitly rejects the notion of “double genocide.”
Seventy years after the Wannsee Conference, the reconciliation process for the crimes of World War II is not yet complete, particularly in the Baltics. Accordingly, the declaration calls for EU member states to “continue efforts to acknowledge their own roles in the destruction of European Jewry” and the “need for ongoing genuine Holocaust education and memorialization across the European Union.” The rise of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and xenophobia in general, and the implementation of double genocide policies in Eastern Europe, makes this an urgent imperative.…
(Danny Ben-Moshe is an associate professor at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.)
NETANYAHU’S POST-ZIONIST EDUCATION MINISTRY
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, January 16, 2012
One of the declared goals of the Netanyahu government is to ensure that Israeli schoolchildren receive a strong Zionist education. To this end, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Gideon Sa’ar as his education minister.
Sa’ar has long distinguished himself as a critic of post-Zionist initiatives to transform Israel’s educational curriculum from a Zionist curriculum which in accordance with the Education Law of 1953 is charged with inculcating school children with “the values of Jewish culture,” “love of the homeland,” and “loyalty to the Jewish state,” into one that indoctrinates Israel’s youth to adopt a post-nationalist, universalist perspective that does not value Jewish nationalism and rejects patriotism as atavistic and even racist.
In light of the importance that the government has placed on Zionist education, it is quite shocking that under Sa’ar, the Education Ministry approved a new citizenship textbook for high school students that embraces the post-Zionist narrative.
This fall, the new textbook, Setting off on the path to citizenship: Israel—society, state and its citizens (“Yotzim l’derech ezrachit: Yisrael—hevra, medina v’ezracheya”) was introduced into the state’s official citizenship curriculum. In everything from its discussion of the War of Independence to globalization and transnational institutions, to Israeli politics, to the peace process, to Israel’s constitutional debate, to Operation Cast Lead, the textbook adopts positions that are post-Zionist and even anti-Zionist. It champions these positions while denying students the basic facts necessary to make informed decisions on how they relate to their country, their people and their rights and duties as citizens.
In a letter to Sa’ar written on October 4, 2011, Bar-Ilan University law professor Gideon Sapir set out four ways the textbook distorts history and reality. First, in its discussion of the historical background of Israel’s founding, the book gives only passing mention to the international legal foundation of the state—the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine from 1922. The Mandate called for the reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth in the land of Israel. It granted sovereignty to the Jewish state over all the territory that today makes up Israel, Judea, Samaria and Jordan. The textbook provides no map of the Mandate…
Second, Sapir noted that the book’s explanation of Israel’s constitutional foundations present the so-called “constitutional revolution” of the 1990s as utterly uncontroversial. Through the “constitutional revolution,” the Supreme Court effectively seized the Knesset’s legislative powers. And as Sapir notes, it justified the move through a distorted interpretation of laws “reading into them rights that were specifically removed from them by the Knesset.” In hiding the controversy surrounding the “constitutional revolution,” the textbook denies students the ability to understand…the current fight between the court and the Knesset regarding the separation of powers.
As Sapir notes, the textbook demonizes the political Right generally and in Israel in particular. While just last month Labor politicians and leftist commentators called for the government to deny due process rights to right-wing protesters, Setting off on the path to citizenship presents political violence as the sole province of the political Right. So, too, while the book claims the Left has a monopoly on human rights, it tells students that “nationalistic chauvinism is identified with the rightist character.”…
Finally, Prof. Sapir mentions that the chapter on the peace process between Israel and its neighbors blames Israel for the absence of peace. The chapter begins a discussion of prospects for peace after the 1967 Six Day War. In so doing, it places the responsibility for the absence of peace on Israel which, it claims, blocks peace by refusing to give Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians and the Golan Heights to Syria. The book paints sympathetic portraits of the Syrian regime, ignores then-prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer to relinquish the Golan Heights for peace, and makes no mention of repeated statements by Arab leaders calling for the destruction of Israel and denying Israel’s right to exist.
Aside from the points raised by Prof. Sapir, the book also criticizes Israel for not fully embracing the post-nationalist world order represented by the UN. It criticizes Israel for rejecting the legitimacy of the International Court of Justice’s nonbinding legal opinion from 2004 regarding the security barrier. At the same time, it makes no mention of the fact that the ICJ’s opinion denied Israel’s right to self-defense and that the judges themselves included outspoken haters of Israel.
So, too, in attacking Israel for not embracing the UN as the arbiter of issues of war and peace, by among other things, refusing to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission after Operation Cast Lead, the textbook makes no mention of the UN’s anti-Israel agenda [and] the UN’s diplomatic orgy of anti-Semitism at Durban in 2001 in which Israel was singled out as the most racist, illegitimate evil state on the planet. They are not told of the UN General Assembly’s insidious 1975 resolution defining Zionism—the Jewish national liberation movement—as a form of racism.
All of this actually makes sense. Because the textbook itself claims that the Jewish people are a religious group, not a nation. In a teaching note, the textbook recommends “explaining to the students that Judaism in its original meaning is a religion. The Zionist movement transformed the term, ‘Judaism,’ into a nation.” This shocking assertion, which channels the PLO’s genocidal, anti-Semitic charter while ignoring 3,500 years of Jewish history, is par for the course for the textbook introduced into Israel’s high schools under the Netanyahu government.
The question of how this book was approved was the subject of an in-depth investigative report written by Gil Bringer and published in Makor Rishon on December 9, 2011. In a nutshell, the story is yet another chapter in the well-known tale in which leftist politicians working hand in glove with leftist academics and leftist media, install leftist political activists in permanent, “professional” positions within the state bureaucracy in order to enable their radical policies to outlive their time in office….
[C]oalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin called for an urgent hearing on the textbook in the Knesset’s Education Committee. The hearing, which was scheduled to take place on January 4, was canceled. Ministry officials claim that the Sa’ar asked committee chairman MK Alex Miller to cancel the meeting and claimed he was handling the issue within the ministry….
Stonegate, Institute, December 22, 2011
It is ironic that Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Israel’s only university bearing the name of the Jewish state’s founding father, and established in the ancient desert he dreamt of reviving, has become a hotbed of anti-Israel propaganda at the expense of proper scholarly endeavor.
So much so that an international committee of scholars, appointed by Israel’s Council for Higher Education to evaluate political science and international relations programs in Israeli universities, recently recommended that BGU “consider closing the Department of Politics and Government” unless it abandoned its “strong emphasis on political activism,” improved its research performance, and redressed the endemic weakness “in its core discipline of political science.” In other words, they asked that the Department return to accurate scholarship rather than indoctrinate the students with libel.
The same day the committee’s recommendation was revealed, Professor David Newman—who founded that department and bequeathed it such a problematic ethos, for which “achievement” he was presumably rewarded with a promotion to Deanship of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, from where he can shape other departments in a similar way—penned an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post in which he compared Israel’s present political culture to that of Nazi Germany.
“I will no doubt be strongly criticized for making such a comparison,” he wrote, “but we would do well to paraphrase the famous words of Pastor Niemoller, writing in 1946 about Germany of the 1930s and 1940s: ‘When the government denied the sovereign rights of the Palestinians, I remained silent; I was not a Palestinian. When they discriminated against the Arab citizens of the country, I remained silent; I was not an Arab. When they expelled the hapless refugees, I remained at home; I was no longer a refugee. When they came for the human rights activists, I did not speak out; I was not an activist. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.’”
Even if every single charge in this paraphrase were true, Israel would still be light years apart from Nazi Germany. But one need not be a politics professor or faculty dean to see the delusion in these assertions.
To begin with, which Israeli government has denied “the sovereign rights of the Palestinians”? That of David Ben-Gurion which accepted the 1947 partition resolution with alacrity? Or those headed by Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu, which explicitly endorsed the two-state solution? Has Newman perhaps mistaken Israel’s founding father for Hajj Amin Husseini, leader of the Palestinian Arabs from the early 1920s to the 1940s, who tirelessly toiled to ethnically cleanse Palestine’s Jewish community and destroy the nascent state of Israel? Or possibly for Husseini’s successors, from Yasser Arafat, to Ahmad Yassin, to Mahmoud Abbas, whose commitment to Israel’s destruction has been equally unwavering?
There is no moral equivalence whatever between the Nazi persecution, exclusion, segregation, and eventually industrial slaughter of European Jewry, and Israel’s treatment of its Arab population. Not only do the Arabs in Israel enjoy full equality before the law, but from the designation of Arabic as an official language, to the recognition of non-Jewish religious holidays as legal resting days for their respective communities, Arabs in Israel have enjoyed more prerogatives than ethnic minorities anywhere in the democratic world.
To put it more bluntly, while six million Jews, three quarters of European Jewry, died at the hands of the Nazis in the six years that Hitler dominated Europe, Israel’s Arab population has not only leapt tenfold during the Jewish state’s 63 years of existence—from 156,000 in 1948 to 1.57 million in 2010—but its rate of social and economic progress has often surpassed that of the Jewish sector, with the result that the gap between the two communities has steadily narrowed…
Even more mind-boggling is Newman’s equating Israel’s attempt to prevent foreign funding of Israeli nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in the international Israel de-legitimization campaign—along the lines of the US Foreign Agents Legislation Act—with repressing political opponents by the Nazi regime. What “human rights activists” have been unlawfully detained by the Israeli government, let alone rounded up and thrown into concentration camps? On what planet does the Ben-Gurion University faculty dean live?
But Newman is not someone to be bothered by the facts. His is the standard “colonialist paradigm” prevalent among Israeli and Western academics, which views Zionism, and by extension the state of Israel, not as a legitimate expression of national self-determination but as “a colonizing and expansionist ideology and movement” (in the words of another BGU professor)—an offshoot of European imperialism at its most rapacious.
And therein, no doubt, lies the problem with BGU’s Politics and Government Department: the only Israeli department singled out by the international committee for the unprecedented recommendation of closure. For if its founder and long-time member, who continues to wield decisive influence over its direction, views Israel as a present-day reincarnation of Nazi Germany in several key respects, how conceivably can the department ensure the “sustained commitment to providing balance and an essential range of viewpoints and perspectives on the great issues of politics” required for its continued existence?
(Efraim Karsh is research professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies
at King’s College London, director of the Middle East Forum
and author, most recently, of Palestine Betrayed.)
A TWO-STATE SOLUTION—FOR ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND
Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2012
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron took a highly unusual step. Meeting with visiting PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Her Majesty’s Government departed from the usual diplomatic blather and went out of his way to underline his insistence on a two- state solution for the Israel- Palestinian dispute. “Britain,” he said, “wants to see a two-state solution come about. We are passionate about this; we do everything we can to push and promote this agenda at every available opportunity.”
Cameron’s fervor was matched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who accused the Jewish state of carrying out “deliberate vandalism” by building homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria. “The continued existence of illegal settlements risks making facts on the ground such that a two-state solution becomes unviable,” said Clegg with an amused Abbas at his side.
How nice it is to see that Britain’s top officials are so adamant about the right to self-determination and the principle that nations should be able to freely choose their form of political affiliation and assert their national sovereignty. With a growing national independence movement right there in the United Kingdom (or, should I say, in the not-so-united Kingdom), I guess we should now expect to hear similar statements by the Cameron government regarding Scottish independence.
To be sure, the independence movement is gathering steam in Scotland. Last week, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said that Scotland’s government would hold a referendum on independence in the autumn of 2014. The date coincides with the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, when Scottish armies defeated the English.
After centuries of tension, Scotland and England joined together with the Treaty of Union in January 1707. But Scottish nationalists have long suspected that the balloting on unification was less than pure and that those who supported the move had been bribed to vote in favor. As Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, put it, “We are bought and sold for English gold. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”
But the dream of Scottish autonomy did not die, and after a vote in September 1997, the Scottish Parliament convened in July 1999 for the first time in centuries, with the British government transferring various powers to Scottish control. Today, 13 years later, not all Scots are satisfied with the greater autonomy they currently enjoy, and Salmond hopes to build support for a complete and historic break with the English…
While Cameron has agreed to give the Scottish parliament temporary powers to hold a vote, he wants it done on his terms. He has demanded the vote be held as soon as possible and insists on the right to approve the wording of the yes-or-no referendum question that will be put to Scottish voters. Moreover, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph on January 8, the British premier made clear that he does not think Scotland should secede. “I don’t want to be Prime Minister of England, I want to be Prime Minister of the whole of the United Kingdom,” he said, describing himself as a “passionate believer”—there is that term again—in a united Great Britain.
So which is it, Mr. Cameron? Are you really all that passionate about the principle of self-determination? Shouldn’t it be left to the Scots to decide when and how they will determine their own national destiny? Or does your passion only apply to the Palestinians? Put simply, the British are trying to have it both ways, insisting that Israel give the Palestinians unfettered freedom on their own terms, even as they apply a very different standard in their own Scottish backyard…
Before preaching to Israel, London would do well to put its own house in order and let the Scots go free, should they choose. As Winston Churchill once noted, “It is always easier to discover and proclaim general principles than to apply them.” That is a lesson that David Cameron apparently has yet to learn.