Holocaust consciousness-raising = harming Palestinians

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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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. 

Eldar:

…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

About Michael Desch

Michael Desch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008.

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24 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    March 23, 2012, 11:30 am

    RE: “Netanyahu’s manipulation of the Holocaust (which is old
    news)” ~ Desch

    MY SNARK: Netanyahu is an extremely cynical demagogue. I suppose we should very reluctantly give him a little credit for being consistent in that he is willing to demagogue everything and anything that will benefit him.

  2. eljay
    March 23, 2012, 11:52 am

    >> … the researchers concluded, in order to protect itself from extinction, the group [of Jewish subjects] legitimizes harming others.

    Aggressor-victimhood is a tough gig, but with just a little more fear and a little more “protection from extinction”, the Jewish state should be able to legitimize wiping Palestinians completely off the map and into the sea.

    Kudos to the Jewish state and its Jewish citizens for “staying the course”.

    • Mooser
      March 23, 2012, 12:52 pm

      On the other hand, just about the time Israel wipes all the Palestinians “off the map” Peter Beinart and the other “liberals” will make it to full-fledged non-Zionism.
      And Phil will tell us how heroic they are, and how moral for finally reaching a non-Zionist state of mind.

  3. CigarGod
    March 23, 2012, 12:11 pm

    Media has their bread and butter topics that always bring in a steady stream of revenue, a’ la Chomsky.

    http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Propaganda_model

  4. American
    March 23, 2012, 12:14 pm

    This constant use of the holocaust desensitizes people to the holocaust imo. Except for the Jews Netanyahu wishes to influence, now a third generation from the holocaust, I think it’s been ridden as far as it can go for everyone else in political terms. Particulary the current non Jewish young won’t accord it the importance or be as emotional about it as my generation was, it’s too far removed from them.

    • seafoid
      March 23, 2012, 1:00 pm

      It’s an insult to the memory of those who were murdered in the Shoah. It’s very hard to watch videos from the end of the war of dead Jewish civilians who never did anything to anyone being thrown into burial pits and think that Netanyahu is using their tragedies to justify the ongoing oppression of Palestinian civilians who never did anything to anyone.

  5. Annie Robbins
    March 23, 2012, 1:42 pm

    not to get too far off topic but everytime i see a photo of those letters i am reminded of a comment of americans in the second link in your opening.

    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/03/netanyahu-says-you-also-refused-to-bomb-auschwitz.html/comment-page-1#comment-430944

    This book was inspired by a visit to the Boston Holocaust Memorial near Quincy Market. My daughter, Ali, then a student at Phillips Academy, and I visited that Holocaust Memorial, and we read these words:
    “By late 1942, the United States and its Allies were aware of the death camps, but did nothing to destroy them.”
    I told Ali that this statement could not possibly be true. The United States was not even a belligerent in World War II until December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. How could we have saved the Jews of Europe in 1942?

    (Excerpt)

    “The Holocaust Museum takes one of Kubowitzki’s numerous letters to John McCloy, assistant Secretary of War and enlarged it to make it appear that he was requesting the bombing of Auschwitz. Not True. This letter, the centerpiece of the Museum’s display on the bombing of Auschwitz, merely passed on a message from the Czechoslovakian government in exile and McCloy was well aware that Kubowitzki and the World Jewish Congress adamantly opposed the bombing of Auschwitz. View First Letter View Second Letter (I have written the Holocaust Museum about this blatant error, but have yet to hear back from their Chief Historian.)”

    these are excerpts from american’s link which include the links to the letters:

    A. Leon Kubowitzki, himself a refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe and head of the rescue department of the World Jewish Congress, wrote the director of the War Refugee Board, John Pehle, and underlined it for emphasis: View Letter ” The destruction of the death installations cannot be done by bombing from the air, as the first victims would be the Jews who are gathered in these camps, and such a bombing would be a welcome pretext for the Germans to assert that their Jewish victims have been massacred not by their killers, but by the allied bombings.”

    Despite erroneous assertions by many historians and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jewish leaders overwhelmingly opposed the bombing of Auschwitz. Kubowitzki wrote to one Jewish leader, “I think you know that we are not in favor of the bombing of the extermination installations….Because we believe in hayei shaa [literally, “life of the hour,” meaning saving those currently living] and we are afraid for the Jewish victims of such bombings and giving the Germans an alibi.” View Letter

    The Holocaust Museum takes one of Kubowitzki’s numerous letters to John McCloy, assistant Secretary of War and enlarged it to make it appear that he was requesting the bombing of Auschwitz. Not True. This letter, the centerpiece of the Museum’s display on the bombing of Auschwitz, merely passed on a message from the Czechoslovakian government in exile and McCloy was well aware that Kubowitzki and the World Jewish Congress adamantly opposed the bombing of Auschwitz. View First Letter ….. View Second Letter (I have written the Holocaust Museum about this blatant error, but have yet to hear back from their Chief Historian.)

    • Klaus Bloemker
      March 23, 2012, 9:25 pm

      To me as a German it’s strange that there is a United States Holocaust Museum in Washington and obviously one in Boston (and probably other places too). How come the US is so concerned about the crime of another country. Holocaust Memorials have to be in Germany (they are) and the countries that collaborated with Germany during World War II. But why in the US?

      Is there a prominent ‘United States Indian Genocide Memorial’ or ‘Slavery Memorial’? It would of course be absurd if Germany had one (on the basis that Texas Germans and Germans in other states were anti-slavery).

      • Mooser
        March 23, 2012, 9:47 pm

        Terrible, how that guilty feeling hangs on for so many years. What did you do in the war, Herr Daddy?

        What the hell is it to you if AMerica has a Holacaust meuseum? American were involved to some extent with the liberation of the camps and dealing with the survivors.
        And as far as the other memorials, do they not have Google in Germany, or do you normally just think that whatever you think must be the case?

      • Without Walls
        March 23, 2012, 10:05 pm

        Terrible how no guilty feeling at all is acknowledged by people instrumental in the death-by-incineration of 600,000 innocent civilians. What did you do in the war, Herr Mendelssohn?

      • Keith
        March 24, 2012, 12:04 am

        KLAUS BLOEMKER- Your point is very well taken. The US holocaust museums are a direct consequence of Jewish Zionist power. They do not in any manner shape or form deal with the fact that throughout history mass-murder has been the rule, not the exception. The failure of the US to establish museums acknowledging the genocide of the native Americans, as well as the slavery and death-by-attrition of the black slaves which formed the backbone of the start of the industrial revolution through the manufacture of cotton textiles, is indicative of the fact that the elites highlight what it suites them to highlight and ignore what it suites them to ignore. The US is an empire engaged in virtually non-stop warfare against the entire Third World and the doctrinal system supports and justifies this.

        And, as “Without Walls” indicates, the World War II Allies are guilty of monstrous war crimes. The fact that these pale in comparison to Axis war crimes does not relieve us of the responsibility to acknowledge that which occurred and to recognize that war itself is inherently a brutal, criminal activity. This is particularly relevant both to Israel, a warfare state, and to the US, the primary warfare state. As we rightly criticize others, we must not turn a blind eye to our own actions.

      • seafoid
        March 25, 2012, 12:12 pm

        150 million people were murdered in wars during the 20th century. Museums of the Jewish holocaust respect 6 million of those killed.

  6. Sin Nombre
    March 23, 2012, 2:21 pm

    You know, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with retaining consciousness about the Holocaust. Indeed, except for fetishizing it–just as fetishizing anything is dangerous—I think it’s virtuous. We in America especially think that nothing happened of any consequence before we were born, and yet think of all those men killed in the Civil War, groaning without anesthesia. And all our WWI and II men and women … they deserve our memories.

    The problem I have is the lack of *balanced* consciousness.

    Not long ago for instance Phil noted the American Democratic Party woman—Wasserman-Shultz—commenting about how jews “need to have a place to go,” as if nobody else has ever been hounded and tormented. As if everyone else was safe as gold in Fort Knox.

    So here’s where some balance I think should come in but doesn’t. Certainly, for instance, if there was some balance Ms. Wasserman-Shultz wouldn’t have been saying what she did if, say, she read Solzhenitsyn. Knew of the huge over-representation of jews amongst the Bolsheviks, especially in their secret police who murdered and tortured and starved so many non-jews. Indeed, who so concentrated on Christians.

    Certainly then she would see how she couldn’t be saying what she did, else Christians generally (and certainly Christians in Europe) could with equal validity be saying they needed to be free of jews to really be safe.

    It’s not consciousness in general that’s bad, it’s partial or unbalanced consciousness that leads to extremism.

    “We are all in the gutter,” some poet once said (a line stolen by the great Chrissie Hynde); that was so clearly true right after WWII especially and the revelations of folks like Solzhenitsyn about the Bolsheviks that it’s only with the fading of *some* consciousness that a Ms. Wasserman-Shultz is out there doing what she is doing with the Holocaust.

    • Pixel
      March 23, 2012, 3:54 pm

      “Certainly then she would see how she couldn’t be saying what she did…”

      She’d still be saying it.

      • Sin Nombre
        March 23, 2012, 11:49 pm

        I wouldn’t be so cynical, Pixel. I think if you look at how the Holocaust has been talked about since the end of WWII, even and indeed especially amongst the jews, you’ll see a change. Everyone back then knew that Europe—including the Soviet Union—had just gone crazy and beast-like. The essential lesson from the shocked West was essentially the absorption of the idea that any man could indeed be a wolf to any other man—because they had.

        A couple of generations go by however, and the lack of preservation of that balanced understanding shows I believe, unconsciously. You just didn’t see the utter sort of obliviousness that you see with Ms. Wasserman-Shultz and other younger jews today. I honestly think they’re just so innocent of any broad historical truth that this is at the root of their wild statements.

    • Mooser
      March 23, 2012, 9:51 pm

      Sin, Solzhenitsyn wrote some great literature. Very moving, and describing a world (Communist Russia) that is very different than ours. I’m not so sure you should take his numbers on the number of Jews among the Bolshviks and what they did as gospel.

      • Sin Nombre
        March 24, 2012, 12:07 am

        No, Moose, I don’t even know if the great Solzh ever totted up the numbers or etc, but others have and indeed manifestly uber-fair folks like Richard Pipes has written extensively about the issue, acknowledging the truth. There’s just no denying it that the ranks of the Bolsheviks—especially the leadership responsible for the Bolshies taking power in the first place, and then also especially amongst the secret police—were just filled with jews; mammothly over-represented in terms of their numbers in the general population.

        I hasten to add however (that unlike, for instance, that guy who seemed to try to “blame” ordinary germans for the Holocaust), this is only meant to note my belief that no-one is immune from behaving as a beast, and no-one is immune from being treated beastly, period.

      • American
        March 24, 2012, 3:33 am

        http://books.google.com/books?id=helhVh_dG0sC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=A+STRUGGLE+FOR+THE+SOUL+OF+THE+JEWISH+people&source=bl&ots=lfHamA0AvG&sig=CDmn5m8z7WWLeRR8xH2l2zduOWI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZG1tT8PiAsXk0QHSv_DpBg&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=A%20STRUGGLE%20FOR%20THE%20SOUL%20OF%20THE%20JEWISH%20people&f=false

        Every world leader believed that the Bolshvik revolution was led by Jews and none more so than Winston Churchill. The Jewish Bolshivks were his initial main motivation in supporting a national home land for the Jews…and he was concerned about keeping Bolshivks from migrating into Palestine. He wrote several screeds about Jewish Bolshivks and even thought they had penetrated into Germany and said they contributed to anti semitism in Germany. Churchill also accused US Jews and what he called International Jews of supporting it. He saw zionism as something that could fight Jewish Bolshivks and turn Jews away from it. All world governments at the time were alarmed by Bolshivkism in Russia, the largest country in the world, because of the communism . Churchill, actually like dreaded Atzmon on here, sort of seperated Jews into good and bad classes, blaming the bad International Jews for leading the poor class Jews astray. The text of the 1920 paper he wrote on the Struggle for the Jewish soul isn’t in the link above but you can find it somewhere on the net I am sure.

    • Keith
      March 24, 2012, 12:16 am

      SIN NOMBRE- If Holocaust consciousness included recognition of the long history of mass-murder to achieve elite objectives, it would be great. Unfortunately, remembrances of the Jewish Holocaust serve to both trivialize historical non-Jewish suffering and mass-murder, and to provide ideological justification for Zionist depredations. Under these circumstances, this selective memory helps to replicate in general terms that which it opposes in specific terms, hence, no good has ever or will ever come of it.

      • Sin Nombre
        March 24, 2012, 9:33 am

        Keith said:

        “Under these circumstances, this selective memory helps to replicate in general terms that which it opposes in specific terms, hence, no good has ever or will ever come of it.”

        Well I agreed with you up to here, Keith, but I wonder if some … lesser, non-fetishized selective memory *necessarily* leads to a group doing terrible things to others. I mean, to some degree *nobody’s* memory/consciousness is broad enough, right?

        I am well aware of the liberal/progressive universalist slant of many if not most people here, and certainly respect the idealism behind it. And I’m not dogmatically against it but do believe there’s reasons to believe it just isn’t possible and won’t work.

        And even perhaps believe that it can’t work, and think that attempts to make it so have led to terrible trouble if not misery already, and might be unavoidable.

        I guess maybe this isn’t the place to explore this, but look, culture not unsurprisingly tends to be shared on the same basis as race and ethnicity, and culture is about more than just what style of music one likes but is about values too.

        And values are what people fight over.

        Idea’s like “multi-culturalism” certainly sound nice, and certainly one can point to the U.S.’s experience in trying it so far and say see it can work. But maybe because of its nature the U.S. is a unique or semi-unique place. (A “creedal”or “propositional” nation rather than one rooted in soil or shared history.) And it’s awful early yet in this experiment here. Nuts, in general we don’t even pay any attention to movements or ideas that have lasted less than 100 years or so in terms of asking about their workability. Here, it’s only been what? … 20 years or so that the term “multi-cultural” has even been around? Maybe 30?

        It’s just awful awful early yet.

        And then I look at that careful study done not all that long ago that resulted in that academic or quasi-academic journal (Foreign Affairs or etc.?) that was widely praised for its carefulness and lack of ideology where the political science author noted that while in a splotch of the West sure, we all think that everything’s moving towards multi-culturalism. Except that across the entirety of the rest of the world basically it’s not, and indeed it’s moving mammothly and resolutely in the opposite direction. No ands, ifs or buts about it, and just as a simple, undeniable factual matter.

        This isn’t to deny for a second the great potential evils of ethno/racial/cultural nationalism, after all we have the Nazis fresh in our minds.

        But it’s funny: With much validity we indict a big slice of the Israelis and jews with seeing everything through the prism of the Holocaust and Nazism, but to a degree liberal, multicultural universalists do too: Sure of course it showed the great potential evils of separatism, but what about *them* looking beyond Germany and Hitler for a second? Indeed, looking just over the border from Hitler’s Germany?

        I.e., what about the great uber-liberal multi-culti universalist experiment that was Bolshevism in the USSR? And for the sake of argument let’s forget even its early crimes: Every new regime is gonna be guilty of some brutalities early on.

        But what did the Bolshies find as their time went on? *Totally* contrary to what they predicted? Ethnic/racial and cultural differences were far far stronger than they ever believed. And, predictably—and worrisomely—what this caused was the regime to become ever more savage trying to stamp it out. To the point of killing or incarcerating so many it changed the demographics of that huge country. A literal orgy of violence and blood, that went on and on, and was stopped only long enough for the USSR to go fight Hitler for little while.

        Not all that different than the experience of Bolshevik China, or Pot Pot’s Cambodia.

        Like I say, it’s early yet for the liberal, multi-cultural, internationalist dream. Indeed perhaps it’s not even fully out of the womb, and in only a very few places. And then there’s that Bolshevik experiment … perhaps suggesting that for that dream to work it’s inevitably going to have to use ever more force, and that even when using what amounts to a demonic degree of same it *still* won’t work….

        It’s early yet.

  7. Keith
    March 23, 2012, 6:40 pm

    Uri Avnery has an interesting related article over at CounterPunch. I provide one sentence and the link.

    “Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust.”
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/23/the-ghetto-within/

  8. Klaus Bloemker
    March 24, 2012, 5:37 am

    A guilt feeling is terrible and so is the feeling to have been the victim (it also involves shame). These feelings have to be turned to productive ends. The Jewish/Israeli lesson from its victimhood seems to be: Now we have to arm ourselves to the teeth. The Germans’: Now we have to unconditionally support Israel and arm them with our submarines. (The same is true to some degree for the American guilt of ‘not having done enough’). – All this is not very productive but may end in another destruction. Security stems from being friends with your neighbors not making your neighbors hate you and then arming yourself to the teeth.

  9. Justice Please
    March 25, 2012, 4:57 pm

    “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.”

    QED

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