Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Attempting to intervene in the Middle East conflict, however ineptly or disingenuously, is not the same as genocide

Those nasty Nazi analogies are all over the place.

Most often, nowadays, they of course emanate from the infantile anti-Israel discourse of those who, having abandoned the brains and scruples of the old left, retain only its name. Still, as we have seen, insensitivity and hyperbole know no ethnic or political bounds.

It was thus dismaying but not entirely unexpected to encounter the following:

Jeanette Pryor,"Clinton Joins World Powers for Wannsee Conference Part II: Condemnation is Final Solution to the Israeli Question"

It begins as a moving story of growth and witness:
When I was nineteen years old I sat in a classroom in France and was taught that the Jews control the entire world. My conservative teacher was deeply influenced by far-right French extremists and Holocaust Deniers who hated America and, of course Israel. I had always been interested, more like obsessed, with the history of the Holocaust. The Diary of Ann Frank was a favorite childhood book. I read The Hiding Place at least 100 times, no Irish exaggeration.

My easy repudiation of an accurate, open-minded world-view for radical extremism — coming as I did from a family that valued ethnic diversity — is a perfect example of the danger of the New Anti-Semitism. Teaching young people that Israel uses finance to undermine the global economy and “capitalizes” on the Holocaust to prevent anyone from criticizing her involvement in world governments is rampant. Rallying people against “all-powerful Jews,” happens in churches and even on nationally syndicated radio shows.

More than two decades and hundreds of hours of research separate me from the naïve child who simply accepted the lies about Israel and Her role in world politics. The regret of living a portion of my life with a paranoid worldview based on illogic, cruelty, and hatred is profound. Today, the nature of the lies makes me furious, furious with the girl I was, who should have known better, enraged with the teachers who could have opened a book, looked at a map, and known the truth. . . .

Sadly, it ends with a rant. The author denounces recent US and EU calls for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict within 24 months:
When I think of Clinton and the other UN and EU representatives sitting politely around a table, drinking Perrier and deciding what “to do about Israel,” all I can think of is the Wannsee Conference, the oh-so-civilized reunion of top Nazi officials to “find a solution to the Jewish Question.” . . .
and concludes:
I live within a few blocks of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Studies. While doing research, I used to drive on the campus and notice all the cars with their Obama 2008 stickers. I wonder now if the patrons had any idea that their votes for Obama would be votes against the continued existence of Israel; votes that would send Clinton, the first-lady who embraced the wife of terrorist butcher, Yasser Arafat, to the second round of the Wannsee Conference, where she and like-minded revolutionaries would sign what may turn out to be a second death warrant for the Jewish People.
This is sad.

The Wannsee Conference was the secret gathering in early 1942 at which the Nazi leadership definitively decided upon the physical liquidation of the Jews of Europe: the official death warrant of the genocide.

Whatever one thinks of the continuing stalemate in the "peace process" and the intervention of the US and the EU, and even if one thinks that it may endanger the survival of Israel, this is unhelpful.

If the thrust of the essay was a compelling "witness" or "conversion" narrative of one who went from ignorance and blind acceptance to understanding and mature critical inquiry, then the closing lines wipe all that out. If the point is that the latter-day great powers are behaving, well, imperiously, they are still by no stretch of the imagination endorsing, much less, embarking upon a genocide. And if one unleashes that sort of barrage against the leadership of the west, what ammunition would the author have in reserve for the genuine antisemites and inciters of hatred? Talk about overkill.

Actually, were one to search for a historical analogy, the more apt one might be the notorious Munich Agreement (which I happened to teach yesterday): in September 1938, Great Britain and France forced their putative ally Czechoslovakia, the only democracy in the region—upon pain of being abandoned and blamed for any ensuing war—to surrender a portion of its territory in order to appease the Nazi demand for self-determination of restive and increasingly subversive ethnic Germans.

However, even that one is inappropriate. Fortunately, we're not yet there again, either. Perhaps, then, it is best to set aside forced historical analogies and instead deal with the very real problems of the present and future.

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