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Holocaust's Lessons Diluted by Politicized Rhetoric

Holocaust's Lessons Diluted by Politicized Rhetoric

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo looks at photographs of Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, in Jerusalem, March 5, 2017. (Dan Balilty/AP)

By Tuesday, 18 April 2017 11:55 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Gidon Ben-Zvi's brother Harry contributed to this article.

Ever dream of winning an Academy Award? It's actually quite easy. Brush up on your Holocaust history. Case in point: out of seven nominated Holocaust feature documentaries in 2014, six won an Oscar. However, Holocaust fatigue may be setting in. At the 89th Academy Awards, "Joe's Violin," a short documentary about how a donated musical instrument forges an improbable friendship between a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor and a 12-year-old Bronx school girl, lost out to "The White Helmets," a film that follows the daily operations of a group of volunteer rescue workers of the Syrian Civil Defence (SCD).

So, while it remains to be seen whether the Holocaust has lost its luster around Hollywood, it is increasingly being recruited to promote a series of progressive causes.

Indeed, institutionalized Holocaust remembrance in the U.S. has devolved into an appendage of the Democratic Party. Steven Goldstein and Jonathan Greenblatt represent a fresh crop of progressive political activists charged with preserving the memory of those eviscerated by the Final Solution. Yet, their professional resumes are curiously devoid of much in the way of traditional cultural Jewish experience or even training.

As a result of the politicization of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, the universal lessons to be learned from what Hannah Arendt famously described as the "banality of evil" have been coopted by party hacks looking to score political points.

In January, Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect Executive Director Steven Goldstein released a scathing statement calling upon then President-elect Donald Trump to apologize for comparing the U.S. to Nazi Germany.

Then, several American Jewish groups lambasted the White House after it had released a statement to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not mention Jews or anti-Semitism.

According to Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Greenblatt, Trump's statement "misses that it was six-million Jews who perished, not just 'innocent people.'"

In response, White House officials said they had intended to highlight the fact that the Nazis had many victims, not just Jews. Though the genocidal singularity of the Holocaust makes it unique, are its lessons not applicable to the entirety of humankind?

In short, Goldstein, Greenblatt and leaders of other Jewish organizations in the U.S. cynically whipped up a tempest in a teapot. After all, how many times has the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect or ADL publicly voiced their outrage at Donald Trump repeatedly being compared to Adolf Hitler? Where were these morally pristine organizations when comedian and devoted Democrat Sarah Silverman went on to a late night talk show dressed like the Fuhrer?

Similarly puzzling is the progressives' Pavlovian response of equating the demise of statist, socialist political parties across Europe with the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. Such an analogy is about as ludicrous as comparing today's Democratic Party to Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot, simply because all three happen to be politically left of center.

The left has even gone so far as to lift Holocaust verbiage and twist it in order to subliminally promote progressive ideology. For example, climate change denier is the new Holocaust denier.

How intellectually nefarious is this? The implication is that anyone who may have a few unanswered questions about the veracity of climate change is somehow on the same moral footing as those who deny the Holocaust.

As a result of this rebranding of the Holocaust, an increasing amount of people today remember the destruction of European Jewry, but without mourning or learning from its cataclysmic horrors. Academics, A-list celebrities and donors in search of a legacy have transformed Holocaust remembrance from a somber, reflective, and important exercise in soul searching into the ultimate humblebrag, using the death of six million Jewish men, women and children to draw attention to their own moral purity.

Unfortunately, progressive American Jewry isn't alone in politicizing suffering. The state of Israel is guilty of the same crime. Why is every gentile political leader and celebrity who visits the Jewish homeland paraded to Yad Vashem, Israel’s major Holocaust Museum?

The message that's conveyed is that the primary justification for the existence of the modern Jewish state is the Holocaust, as if the Jewish people's religious, cultural, historic, and linguistic connections to the land are inconvenient truths that will chip away at the victim narrative.

On April 23, Israel will be commemorating the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and also remember the many acts of Jewish resistance that occurred during this, the darkest period of our people's history.

One can only hope that between sundowns on Sunday, April 23 and Monday, April 24 a simple sense of humility will compel America's hyperpoliticized Jewish leadership to refrain from using Yom HaShoah as an opportunity to delegitimize the administration of a sitting U.S. president.

Instead, organizations and prominent public figures may want to consider channeling their energies toward the focus of evil in the modern world, Syria.

The White Helmets documentary that took home this year's Oscar follows a group of indomitable first responders as they risk their lives to rescue victims from the rubble as daily airstrikes pound civilian targets. Unfortunately, even their Herculean efforts are insufficient against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's killing machine.

As I write this, the story leading every major news agency is the revelation of chemical warfare being used by this mass murderer against scores of civilians, including many women and children.

What ever happened to never again?

Gidon Ben-Zvi, former Jerusalem Correspondent for the Algemeiner newspaper, is an accomplished writer who left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem stone in 2009. After serving in an Israel Defense Forces infantry unit from 1994-1997, Ben-Zvi returned to the United States before settling in Israel, where he and his wife are raising their four children to speak fluent English – with an Israeli accent. Ben-Zvi's work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, the Algemeiner, American Thinker, the Jewish Journal, Israel Hayom, and United with Israel. Ben-Zvi blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind (jsmstateofmind.com). For more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Progressive American Jewry isn't alone in politicizing suffering. Israel is also guilty. Gentile political leaders and celebrities are paraded to Israel’s Holocaust Museum, with the message that justification for Israel is the Holocaust, not the Jews' historic connection to the land.
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2017-55-18
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 11:55 AM
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