Netanyahu at AIPAC, with letters debating attack on Auschwitz, 1944
Akiva Eldar has written a very important piece–on Netanyahu’s use of the Auschwitz letters at the AIPAC conference earlier this month–not so much because it highlights Netanyahu’s manipulation of the Holocaust (which is old news) but rather for its succinct summary of scholarly studies that show Holocaust consciousness-raising continues to affect younger people exposed to it.
The studies show that even though they were born long after the Holocaust, the young are susceptible to the sort of manipulation Netanyahu and other hard liners count on to perpetuate a state of “existential panic” among Jews in Israel and the Diaspora that justifies so many problematic things from the continuing occupation to preventive war against Iran. Some people thought that the Holocaust might be a passing generational phenomenon, but this piece shows how it can continue to have historical legs.
…even after 67 years, the Holocaust works on Jews.
Associations with the Holocaust help ease digestion of the injustices of the occupation and increase support for Israel. Thoughts of Auschwitz blur the images of the bodies of Palestinian children killed in the Jewish air force’s bombing of Gaza. It is scientific.
A 2010 article published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that surveyed a sampling of Jews aged 17-81 from three communities in Canada showed a clear connection between Holocaust exposure and awareness, and the intensity of Jews’ fear of extinction. The researchers, Prof. Michael Wohl, Prof. Stephen Reysen and Prof. Nyla Branscombe, found that interviewees asked to write a composition on the Holocaust displayed greater angst and more collective solidarity than those who were not asked to write anything.
The researchers estimate that one of the effects of increased collective angst over extinction is the justification of violent acts against a rival group. They rely, among others, on a 2008 study by Wohl and Branscombe that found the Jewish subjects who were reminded of the Holocaust and of the Jewish people having been victims in the past tended to see the Palestinians as the root of the conflict more than other subjects did. In other words, the researchers concluded, in order to protect itself from extinction, the group legitimizes harming others.
It can be assumed that investing in the Holocaust assures Netanyahu political benefits in the Israeli political scene as well. In contrast, friends in Germany related that the calls for war uttered by Netanyahu from every Washington platform sparked anti-Semitic cries against the Jewish warmongers. For a generation that did not live through the Holocaust, the scent of increasingly more expensive oil is more powerful than the scent of the gas chambers.
And it ties in with the death recently of Peter Novick, and the discussion of his book, The Holocaust in American Life. Peter’s brilliant argument about the salience of the Holocaust in American Jewish identity is not likely to wane soon either