Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Holocaust, suffering, and moral double standards:

Found this in my scavenger hunt through the Internet. An interview with Norman Finklestein. Normally, I wouldn't be half interested in what he may have to say about anything, but this observation from him caught my eye:

"Finkelstein: I’ve written a whole book on that topic – The Holocaust Industry, which basically tries to document and show how the Nazi holocaust has been used since the June 1967 war as a political weapon to suppress criticism of Israel.

I argue that it takes basically two forms. First is the claim of Holocaust uniqueness, which is that no people in the world have ever suffered the ways Jews have. The purpose of this doctrine, which has no intellectual or MORAL foundation, is to basically immunize Israel from criticism.

That is, if Jews suffered uniquely during the Holocaust, then they should not be held to the same moral standards as others.

The second aspect of this Holocaust dogma is the claim that all the gentiles want to kill the Jews – the thesis of Daniel Goldhagen Hitler’s Willing Executioners. And therefore, all gentiles are latently or flagrantly anti-Semitic, so their criticism of Israel cannot be credited."


The entire statement is rather offensively malevolent, but the sentence I highlighted in red struck me as particularly wrong and lacking of any reference to the reality of Israel's position in world public opinion or, for that matter, Jews.

The shoe, as they say, is on the other foot. There is an expectation, which translates directly into an often applied double standard, that Jews, and Israeli Jews in particular, should subscribe to a higher moral order than any other people or country, because of their millennial history of persecution.

Only recently, in a discussion about the Armenian genocide, a Palestinian blogger on The Good Neighbours blog, asserted the following:

"The thing that really baffles me is that for a people that suffered from a holocaust and a Genocide themselves, they tend to deny or ignore the suffering of others (I’m not going to even touch upon the Israeli government tactics with the Palestinians). I don’t understand this for a people who have suffered for so long, I would think that they would sympathize with the suffering of others."

Note the strange rationality there, that I have encountered many times and from many “Left” thinking people. Jews have been genocided, therefore Jews must pay for it by renouncing their own interests, futures, life, homes, country, and why? Because they suffered the Holocaust! They are morally bound to be more righteous, more altruistic, more self-sacrificing, than any righteous other.

Is there any one people or country, in the entire world, upon which such demands are being made, as though it makes perfect, irrefutable moral sense? There is a premise underlying this kind of thinking which goes beyond mere antisemitism. Where, exactly, I don't know.

Here is how A.C. Grayling , a British philosophe, refers to a group of Orthodox Jews who joined in activism against a proposal to pass about the anti-discrimination legislation, taken up by conservative religious groups in the matter of Gay rights, in Britain:


"That is exactly what we would say if they refused to serve black people, women, or Jews. The discrimination is the same, the unacceptability of discrimination is the same, the contempt one feels for them is the same.

And on the subject of Jews: what a disgrace that the stone-agers outside parliament tonight will include a Jewish group. If anyone should be against discrimination of any kind, it is a Jew. Alongside the Jews murdered in Auschwitz were homosexuals, wearing a pink patch where the Jews wore a Star of David. The despairing implication of the fact that Jews are joining Christian and Muslims - the usual standard bearers of intolerance and reaction - in this campaign is that too many people learn too little, never connect the dots, and repeat the ghastly errors of the past, when under the thought-inhibiting influence of such toxins as religious belief."

Why the insistence of picking out very specifically the Jewish part of this activism as particularly egregious? Because, to simplify, Jews should know better. Much as I support anti-discrimination, I found myself at that point diverted from the importance of the main issue by this sort of singling out the Jews. As though being Jewish should automatically preclude any faults, prejudices, or ill-judgments or whatever. No other activist group was thus held up for special scrutiny. Why is that? As though in order to deserve to be considered proper human beings, Jews must be, on principle, more virtuous than any other human being.

I have run across many such examples, in different forms and contexts. So I have to wonder at Dr. Finklestein's authority on anything, if he gets this little matter so wrong.

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