On the passing of Novick: the political limitations of ‘The Holocaust in American Life’

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 85 Comments
novick
Peter Novick. (Photo: Fredric Stein/New York Times)

The deservedly esteemed historian Peter Novick died on February 17th, and his obituary appeared on March 13th in the New York Times [Peter Novick, Wrote Controversial Book on Holocaust, Dies at 77]. It is perhaps unlikely that an obituary in the paper of record would have appeared without his publication in 1999 of the book The Holocaust in American Life, which provoked great controversy. As the Times‘ obituary notes, “Dr. Novick’s book drew wide and varying reactions from reviewers and academicians.” The book was largely a critique of Jewish-American culture and institutions, rather than Jewish-American politics and its relationship to Israel and U.S. foreign policy. Nevertheless, much of the criticism of the book was an implicit defense of Jewish and American support for Israel, and U.S. foreign policy in general.

Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry (2000) was an explicit response to Novick’s book, motivated both by Finkelstein’s criticism of Israel and his revulsion at the exploitation of the Holocaust for financial gain. Finkelstein extended and transformed Novick’s critique, in terms of both political and criminal motives. Novick was, in turn, harshly critical of Finkelstein, and made clear his wish to be disassociated from both the analysis and accusations made in The Holocaust Industry. Events of the past decade on both political and prosecutorial fronts have affirmed Finkelstein’s perspectives on the nature of the centrality of the Holocaust in both Jewish and American life. The review below was originally written in 2001, and contains minor current edits. Its purpose then and now is to clarify the context and limits of Novick’s important book in a manner that is predictably not alluded to in the Times’ obituary:

It is no longer unusual for a Jewish writer to lament the manner in which memory of the Holocaust has been incorporated into Jewish-American identity. It has been ten years since essayist Phillip Lopate wrote “it almost seems that the Holocaust is a corporation headed by Elie Wiesel, who defends his patents with articles in the Arts and Leisure section of the Sunday New York Times.” So it is not surprising that in The Holocaust in American Life, historian Peter Novick of the University of Chicago critically examines the Holocaust not as history but as, in the phrase of Maurice Hawlbachs collective memory, “in which the present determines the past.” Unfortunately, Novick’s political limitations deprive this book of the incisive critique of what irreverent Israelis refer to as “Shoah business.”

To be sure, Novick’s basic insight into the context of the Nazi genocide and the political parameters of Holocaust remembrance allows him to conclude, correctly, that the notion of uniqueness is quite vacuous; that in the United States, memory of the Holocaust is “so banal, so inconsequential, not memory at all, precisely because it is so uncontroversial, so unrelated to real divisions in American society, so apolitical;” and finally that in the 1960s, increased awareness among Jews coincided with the “inward and rightward turn of American Jewry, as the Middle Eastern dispute came to be viewed with all the black-and-white moral simplicity of the Holocaust.”

If Novick understands that beneath the cult of Holocaust memory are essential political divisions in Jewish-American and American life, he nonetheless misconstrues these conflicts, undermining both his scholarly efforts and his claim to intellectual insight that matches his penchant for iconoclasm.

Thus Novick mistakenly thinks he is challenging conventional wisdom by debunking those who, following the meticulous research of historian David Wyman, believe correctly that the Roosevelt administration failed miserably in its treatment of Jewish refugees before and during the war. He is apparently unaware that it has become the political fashion, even among the Jewish intelligentsia, to rationalize and minimize American guilt–as does Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., so as defend FDR’s protective liberal image among Jews; and as does Novick himself.

Nor can Novick bring himself to criticize American postwar and Cold War policies which left Holocaust survivors waiting to emigrate to the U.S. in refugee camp purgatory while American intelligence recruited Nazi spies and our military employed rocket scientists. This leads to a blatant contradiction: he asserts that during the war American leaders could not possibly have been expected to effect “dramatic reversals in mass attitudes toward immigration,” but the end of the war saw our alliances change with “breathtaking speed,” as the Russians were transformed from “indispensable allies to implacable foes, the Germans from implacable foes to indispensable allies.” Breathtaking indeed, as is Novick’s sudden recognition of the effectiveness of state propaganda, much more willing to identify red demons and redeem Nazis than to challenge anti-Semitism and save Jews during the war itself.

Most important, Novick fails to apply his critique of Holocaust memory to the past three decades of its relationship to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Novick accurately describes this relationship as it evolved among American Jews between the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. But he abruptly abandons the issue by claiming that American Jews no longer see the Holocaust as a framework for understanding the Middle East, that the American people never did, and that in any event memories of the Holocaust have had no real influence on American realpolitik in that region. These views allow Novick to avoid confronting the complex, implicit ideological relationships among Holocaust memory, foreign policy from Vietnam to the post-Cold War era’s “clash of civilizations,” and Israel’s military role in the post-Cold War New World Order.

Novick thinks that Holocaust memory is a transitory, sentimental, kitschy aspect of Jewish-American identity and American culture, already on its last legs except among its professional advocates. But events in Yugoslavia in the first half of 1999 proved this wrong, as the media rushed to demonize Milosevic as the latest “Hitler,” and American Jews collected money for Kosavar Albanian refugees in the name of “never again.” It is not by accident that Jewish Holocaust survivors have become America’s favorite victims–not only because they are uncontroversial, as Novick does understand, but because their images effectively serve to reinforce a belief in American innocence as we conduct our imperial business.

Novick concludes on the domestic front with Leon Wieseltier’s view that Jews, like African-Americans, score “a posthumous victory for the oppressors when pain becomes a tradition.” This is surely a tendentious analogy between African-American pain, which is ongoing and institutionalized, and Jewish pain, which is rooted in a past with few remnants, and exists in a present of tolerance and prosperity. The issue is whether “pain as a tradition” can be transformed into empathy and a passion for justice, especially beyond one’s own group or community. The question left unaddressed by Novick is why, in American political life, memory of the Holocaust has contributed so little to such a transformation, and indeed has on balance contributed to something quite the opposite. Even in this controversial and courageous book, the answers are beyond Novick’s political limits.
 

About David Green

David Green ([email protected]) lives in Champaign

Other posts by .


Posted In:

85 Responses

  1. American
    March 24, 2012, 1:23 pm

    I read the NYT review, but who wrote the review ‘below”. There is no link or source for it. I am confused.

    • David Green
      March 24, 2012, 1:52 pm

      I wrote it around 2001. It was not published. I made a few minor changes and, obviously, added a preface.

      • American
        March 24, 2012, 2:06 pm

        LOL…..never mind I unconfused myself with this and now I get your POV.

        Opposing Israel Lobby is Not Same as Supporting Palestinian Rights by David Green
        link to palestinechronicle.com

      • LeaNder
        March 25, 2012, 10:45 am

        David, I have to admit, I initially struggled with “deservedly esteemed historian” and “It is perhaps unlikely that an obituary in the paper of record would have appeared without his publication in 1999 of the book.” The “perhaps” signaled a slight discomfort with squeezing the obituary into the larger context. If you know what I mean?

        Returning, I not only read the obituary but also the review linked in it and the introduction to Novick’s book to get a clearer view. He seems to take an interesting look at the changing perception to the Holocaust inside the Jewish community over decades up to the 90s.

        In many ways the introduction reminds me of an exchange with a female American scholar for whom I initially felt deep empathy. I had the impression she was deeply traumatized by Pacific Radio group dynamics, but was more and more taken aback by her confuse political statements. What to her felt radical socialism to me more and more showed distinctively authoritarian traits.

        This triggered my whole chain of associations:

        The meaning for the American Jewry of its centering of the Holocaust is inseparable from the context in which that centering has taken place. One of the most important elements of that context has been the decline in America of an integrationist ethos (which focused on what Americans have in common and what unites us) and its replacement by a particularist ethos (which stresses what differentiates and divides us). The leaders of American Jewry, who once upon a time had sought to demonstrate that Jews were “just like everybody else, except more so,” now had to establish, for both Jews and gentiles, what there was about Jews that made them different.

        On the surface she seemed to struggle with “melting pot” versus “multiculturalism”, but that was the surface only.

      • David Green
        March 25, 2012, 6:34 pm

        The manner in which the Holocaust was joined with Jewish and American identity had little to do with genuine introspection among Jewish-Americans, I would suggest. I wouldn’t take “beyond the melting pot” too seriously either, except as part of the neoconservative reaction to the 60s (Moynihan, Glazer). The outsized and maudlin and manipulative manner in which the Holocaust entered mainstream American discourse has everything to do with Israel and the “special relationship,” as well as broader aspects of USFP. And again, it had to do with a reaction to what was perceived as “Jewish radicalism” in the 60s, including conflict with “Black Power.” People like Todd Gitlin and Michael Walzer are illustrative.

  2. Nevada Ned
    March 24, 2012, 2:16 pm

    David Green refers to Novick’s ‘political limits’. When Novick was young he was some kind of leftist (Schachmanite, I think). But in recent decades he was a liberal – who clearly was not disposed to get into a fight with the Israel Lobby.

  3. Klaus Bloemker
    March 24, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Novick’s book (the German Edition) was given to me by a Jewish friend. One quote in chapter 9 changed my perception of the Holocaust and Judaism’s weltanschauung completely. Novick writes about the criteria why the Holocaust is considered unique and says (I have to translate back into English):

    “Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League said that the Holocaust ‘is not just an example of a genocide, but a nearly successful attack on the lives of God’s chosen children and therefore on God himself ‘ ”

    Up to this sentence I had thought that the systematic, industrial way the Nazis/SS went about killing the Jews was unique. Now I realized that it was ‘unique’ because the victims consider themselves to be ‘unique’. So, by this definition no other genocide could ever compare to the Jewish Shoa.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 24, 2012, 7:35 pm

      Now I realized that it was ‘unique’ because the victims consider themselves to be ‘unique’. So, by this definition no other genocide could ever compare to the Jewish Shoa.

      this possibly tells us more about you than it does about what makes any particular genocide ‘unique’.

      • seanmcbride
        March 25, 2012, 10:35 am

        Annie,

        What did you make of this quote from Abraham Foxman?

        “[The Holocaust] is not just an example of a genocide, but a nearly successful attack on the lives of God’s chosen children and therefore on God himself.”

        I was stunned by it. Did he really say this? Did he just equate his “people” (ethnic group) with God and define the uniqueness of the Holocaust within that philosophical/theological framework? I know that some (many? most? all?) Jewish fundamentalists hold this racist belief, but I thought that Foxman was (relatively speaking) a secular moderate.

        Perhaps the quote is a hoax or was ripped out of context. It seems like the kind of thing Ovadia Yosef would say. (Yosef is the Israeli ultra-Orthodox religious leader who described non-Jews as subhuman and dumb beasts of burden.)

        This is an important topic. A strong argument could be made that racism is at the root of everything that has gone wrong with the Zionist enterprise. The more I dig into the earliest Zionist writings, the more that racist beliefs and attitudes strike my eye. Most ethnic nationalist movements are racist at the core and Zionism apparently is no exception. (Qualification: I don’t think that all Israelis or supporters of Israel are racists — but they have been swept up by an ideological and cultural system based on ancient biblical myths and memes that does appear to be racist.)

      • Annie Robbins
        March 25, 2012, 12:59 pm

        sean, it’s not a quote that pops up on the ADL website. according to multiple websites he said this: ( i can’t confirm it)

        “The Holocaust is something different. It is a singular event. It is not simply one example of genocide but a near successful attempt on the life of God’s chosen children and, thus, on God Himself. It is an event that is the antithesis of Creation as recorded in the Bible; and like its direct opposite, which is relived weekly with the Sabbath and yearly with the Torah, it must be remembered from generation to generation.” Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (New York), writing in ADL On the Frontline (January 1994, page 2)

        wrt what i think of it, it would seem to me to be a possible logical conclusion one might make if one’s interpretation of religious texts and teachings led one to believe jews were god’s chosen people. but even if one did not believe that it is still logical to perceive genocide as being the “antithesis of Creation” depending on one’s religious beliefs. i am the wrong person to ask about religious interpretations because i’m not religious therefore i do not recognize the logic of religion as being logical wrt what i think of as basic logic.

      • seanmcbride
        March 25, 2012, 1:12 pm

        Annie,

        It looks like a legit quote, then, and it means what it seemed to mean.

        I don’t know anything about Klaus’s past comments and writings, but I think he raised a valid point here in this current comment.

        Within the overall context of 20th century political mass murder and genocide (some 100 million victims according to reputable sources), Jewish lives should be neither undervalued nor overvalued in comparison to non-Jewish lives.

      • MichaelSmith
        March 25, 2012, 3:17 pm

        I think you’ve read the quote accurately, but with the proper “scare quotes” inserted, with “God” to mean the idea of the Biblical God, it’s something a secularist or universalist could say. Foxman most likely didn’t intend it that way, but the bare words aren’t inconsistent with much “God is dead” holocaust theology.

      • yourstruly
        March 25, 2012, 4:45 pm

        can anyone but religious nuts or charletons seriously pay attention to interpretations of the meaning of the holocaust based on religious superstition and related claptrap? furthermore attempts to diminish the genocide of people other than jews is not only demeaning, it’s disgusting.

      • Hostage
        March 25, 2012, 5:02 pm

        It looks like a legit quote, then, and it means what it seemed to mean.

        Of course it did, but even the Christian Church thinks of the congregation of the faithful as the physical dwelling place of God on Earth, i.e.

        And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. — 2 Corinthians 6:16 King James Version (KJV)

        There are various accounts of attempts to kill off the male children from the Old and New Testaments, and various schemes (that were never successfully implemented) by the Amalekites to kill off multitudes, but the Holocaust is unique from those accounts based upon the number of people who perished.

      • LeaNder
        March 25, 2012, 7:30 pm

        I agree, Michael, but I don’t think that’s relevant here. Not even “scare quotes” would save it from Mooser on a good day. I am afraid Shmuel would not want to take up the task and defend Foxman.

        God is dead in all it’s variations obviously was a rather frequent metaphor even over here …

      • Hostage
        March 25, 2012, 8:40 pm

        Foxman most likely didn’t intend it that way, but the bare words aren’t inconsistent with much “God is dead” holocaust theology.

        Huh? Many Orthodox Jews use the term Holocaust (sacrifice, burnt offering) and teach that the victims were the “Suffering Servant” described in end-times prophecies, like Isaiah 53. That holds true for Jews who remain, strictly speaking, non-Zionists. link to aish.com

        FYI, Foxman was a lay leader of an Orthodox Synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey for 25 years before he resigned over a dispute with the Rabbi regarding the separation of religion and state in Israel. The Rabbi had condemned Rabin’s peace initiatives and the congregation stopped offering the traditional prayers for the State of Israel and its leaders. Foxman’s resignation letter was featured on the front page of the NYT and there were follow-up articles by Thomas Friedman. See Abraham Foxman, Never Again: The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, HarperOne, 2003, page 72. There’s no reason to suppose that Foxman doesn’t hold typical Orthodox views about the Jews being the chosen people. On page 47 of his book he complains about the rivalry with the Christian community over the claim that it had “accepted the divine mandate that had been rejected by the Jews and become “the new Israel,” a people chosen by God to replace the faithless Israelites.” That after all was part of the original defamation the B’nai B’rith set-out to combat through the ADL.

      • Shmuel
        March 26, 2012, 5:23 am

        I am afraid Shmuel would not want to take up the task and defend Foxman.

        No, I certainly wouldn’t. In the context of Holocaust theology however (and this is not what Foxman was saying), we do find the concept of God as victim in the Holocaust (see e.g. H. Jonas; K. Shapira). Another, perhaps related idea, addressed by Wistrich, in Hitler and the Holocaust, is that of the Nazi struggle against Judeo-Christian morality (rooted in the Jewish “ferment of decomposition”).

      • LeaNder
        March 26, 2012, 8:02 am

        Shmuel, you may understand that I am slightly hesitant about Robert Wistrich scholarship after his Obsession activities. I will not live long enough to see his prognosticated Eurabia come about in 30, 40, 50 years; they even will walk the halls of the White House, if he is correct. I am aware of the book, but don’t know what to make of it. you read it? I am slightly hesitant concerning the term Judeo-Christian, mainly due to it’s political use on the right. (e.g. David Yerushalmi’s SANE).

        But strictly any book on the impact of the Holocaust on Judaism you are aware of would be much appreciated. [(see e.g. H. Jonas; K. Shapira) = Hans Jonas? K?)]

        Linguistic matters “Holocaust” and “Shoah”: The Arabs and the Holocaust. The Arab-Israeli war of narratives, Gilbert Achcar, 2009. Isn’t this the religious context Foxman tries to avoid? If God is not dead than he must have let, or worse made it happen. (I haven’t checked if it is available with preview option in Google):

        Two terms have become established as designations of the Jewish genocide in it’s singularity: “Shoah” and “Holocaust”. The first is a Hebrew word generally translated as “catastrophe”: employed with the definite article in the singular (Ha Shoah), it is a natural expression in the language of the Jewish religion for the terrible that befell European Jews (along with other non-European Jews, who are all too often forgotten). It is not to be sure a scientific term, but offers a way to accentuate the singularity of the Jewish genocide.

        Esther Benbassa, however criticizes the term “Shoah,” arguing that, with it’s biblical origins, it designates a punishment inflicted by God. She also emphasizes that the expression used in Yiddish, the language of the majority of victims and survivors of the Jewish genocide, was different. Despite it’s secularization, she asserts, the term “Shoah,” contains all the ingredients of a “secular theology” of the Jewish tragedy. Her objection is well founded, but she herself, paradoxically, uses the term “Holocaust,” to which, all things considered, the same criticisms apply a fortiori.

        “Holocaust” indeed, has the same function in present-day usage. It is derived from the Greek word holokaustos, which means “entirely consumed by fire.” More precisely, it comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 1:3) and has entered the Western languages by way of Church Latin. The word refers to the ancient Israelites’ practice of burning sacrificed animals as an expiatory offering. The Hebrew text has no word for the Greek word, utilizing only olah, which means “ascension” and “elevation” (the word “aliyah” has the same root) to designate “immolation”–probably because of what is burned rises toward heaven in the form of smoke. The burned offering, or olah, is a variant of quorban, which means “sacrificial offering.” In the bible, the word olah, is used only to describe animals that were to be entirely consumed by fire, which is why it was translated as “holocaust.” Other offerings, such as “meal offerings” of flour or cakes, were only partially burned; the rest had to be given to “Aaron and his sons,” that is the priests.

        If you let sink in these linguistic matters deeply, you may understand my severe discomfort considering “dialog” Richard’s allusion to sacrifice in the context of pressuring Phil to reconsider his position on Israel or keep him from pondering about his own racism. To put it viciously bluntly: Did all the people that died in the Holocaust ultimately die for Israel? Is that what the term Holocaust is meant to signal?

        really, really urgent work to do now.

      • LeaNder
        March 26, 2012, 8:09 am

        for whatever reason, my italics inside the blockquote don’t work. Interesting outside the blockquote it works. Inside they are there but don’t work. Why? gone now.

      • Shmuel
        March 26, 2012, 8:33 am

        LeaNder,

        I understand your reservations regarding Wistrich. I haven’t read A Lethal Obsession, but read Hitler and the Holocaust a few years ago, and appreciated the strong opposition to Goldhagen.

        Yes, I was referring to Hans Jonas – specifically “The Concept of God after Auschwitz”. K. Shapira is Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (the Rabbi of Piaseczno), a Hassidic Rabbi in the Warsaw Ghetto, who developed a mystical theology of suffering. Shapira was murdered at the Trawniki labour camp, and his writings (records of his sermons) were discovered after the war, buried in milk cans along with Ringelblum’s “Oyneg Shabes” Archives. See Nehemia Polen, The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Avichai Zur, “The Lord Hides in Inner Chambers: The Doctrine of Suffering in the Theosophy of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira of Piaseczno” (Dapim: Studies on the Shoah 25, 2011).

        I agree with Achcar’s observations regarding the words “Shoah” and “Holocaust”.

      • LeaNder
        March 26, 2012, 8:57 am

        Other offerings, such as “meal offerings” of flour or cakes, were only partially burned

        this may be partially wrong. The priests got meat too, so it feels at least some animals were not burned completely either, at least if I trust Bruce Chilton’s Rabbi Jesus, extensive treatment of the sacrifice. His The Roots of Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Abraham’s curse. Richard made me pile it up here.

        Alas, time. I have to shut down this dammed browser. ;)

      • Hostage
        March 26, 2012, 9:22 am

        To put it viciously bluntly: Did all the people that died in the Holocaust ultimately die for Israel? Is that what the term Holocaust is meant to signal?

        I gave you a link to an Aish article on the end times prophecy about the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who was stricken by God and afflicted. The commentary there on verse 3 specifically mentioned the Nazis.

        I think that there are actually worse examples of potentially offensive ways to rationalize the Holocaust, in terms of Jewish theology i.e. link to aish.com

      • Shmuel
        March 26, 2012, 9:26 am

        The priests got meat too, so it feels at least some animals were not burned completely either

        Only the “olah” was burned completely. Other animal sacrifices – such as the “peace offering” (qorban shelamim) – required only the immolation of certain parts of the animal. The rest was shared (in the case of the “shelamim”) between the priests and the person bringing the offering.

      • LeaNder
        March 26, 2012, 10:53 am

        Hostage, these matters I leave to Mooser ;)

        The intention is not to denigrate another religion, but rather to understand the true meaning of the Divine word.

        Isaiah 53 – Line by Line

        Early in the Book of Isaiah, God predicts the long and difficult exile of the Jewish people. Chapter 53 occurs in the midst of Isaiah’s “Messages of Consolation,” which tell of the restoration of Israel to prominence as God’s chosen people.

        The key to understanding this chapter lies in correctly identifying who is speaking. Though the book was written by Isaiah, verses 53:1-10 are told from the perspective of world leaders. Following in the footsteps of the previous chapter (Isaiah 52:15 – “the kings will shut their mouths in amazement”), these verses describe how world leaders will be shocked with disbelief when God’s Servant Israel – despite all contrary expectations – is vindicated and blossoms in the Messianic age.

        Now I can understand Hitler’s fear that the Zionist could indeed mange to create their state. Although he may well have intended to deal with this problem later. Imagine this specific god in power, wouldn’t he want to take revenge for the bad done to his people, “Israel”, over ages? ;)

        *************************************************

        (3) He was despised and rejected of men, a man of pains and accustomed to sickness. As one from whom we would hide our faces, he was despised, and we had no regard for him.

        נִבְזֶה וַחֲדַל אִישִׁים אִישׁ מַכְאבוֹת וִידוּעַ חלִי וּכְמַסְתֵּר פָּנִים מִמֶּנּוּ נִבְזֶה וְלא חֲשַׁבְנֻהוּ

        This verse describes the Servant as universally despised and rejected. This has been a historical theme for the Jewish people, as a long list of oppressors have treated the Jews as sub-human (the Nazis) or as a pariah state (the United Nations). See similar imagery in Isaiah 49:7, 60:15; Psalms 44:14; Nechemia 3:36.

        While this description clearly applies to Israel, it cannot be reconciled with the New Testament account which describes Jesus as immensely popular (Matthew 4:25). “Large crowds” of people came from far and wide to hear him speak, and Jesus had to sail into the water to avoid being overrun by the crowds (Mark 3:7-9). Luke 2:52 describes him as physically strong and well respected, a man whose popularity spread and was “praised by all” (Luke 4:14-15). A far cry from Isaiah’s description of “despised and rejected.”

        Although Jesus died a criminal’s death, Isaiah is describing someone for whom rejection has spanned the ages – obviously referring to a nation, not an individual who suffered rejection for only a few hours.

        But if God died, no matter if really or metaphorically, would Foxman’s God not need some of resurrection first?

        I only returned to do a little online banking. Now I am gone again.

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 26, 2012, 11:54 am

        “but a near successful attempt on the life of God’s chosen children and, thus, on God Himself.”

        I’m having a hard time harmonizing this statement with the oft-repeated claim that “chosenness” does not, in any way, mean “special above other people” or “superior.”

      • Mooser
        March 26, 2012, 2:07 pm

        “rooted in the Jewish “ferment of decomposition””

        Thank You! At last I have a name for what happens when I try to write music!

      • Hostage
        March 26, 2012, 3:44 pm

        But if God died, no matter if really or metaphorically, would Foxman’s God not need some of resurrection first?

        I think Foxman, like Yehudah Leib Gerst, was expressing a common enough Orthodox view that, due to the unassailability of God, Israel had become the target. Isaiah 53 implies that the plan of apocalyptic redemption was already in place. — See Gershon Gorenberg’s chapter on Orthodox Jewish Thought in the Wake of the Holocaust, in Omer Bartov, Phyllis Mack, In God’s name: genocide and religion in the twentieth century, Berghahn Books, 2001 link to books.google.com

      • LeaNder
        March 27, 2012, 8:22 am

        Thanks Hostage, not only Gorenberg’s article is interesting for me, as you may have realized. Interesting approach. Gerhard Kittel, is to be expected in this context, but I am much more attracted to the chapter about army chaplins under Nazi’s. In a specific biography, I wondered about that little item while ago.

      • LeaNder
        March 27, 2012, 9:29 am

        I appreciate your note on Wistrich’s book. There are some highly interesting articles about Goldhagen by Norman Finkelstein’s co-author Ruth Bettina Birn in a periodical over here, by the way. Goldhagen was sent to her as the expert on the archives over here. One of the articles looks closely at the book launch in the US. The controversy resulting from his book over here was more interesting than the book itself, he surely has good instincts what was needed to make it a blockbuster.

        But this is funny, look at the Wistrich’s Gobal Jihad as Paperback publication date over here. I wonder if it is a mistake, or a cynical comment.

        Another, perhaps related idea, addressed by Wistrich, in Hitler and the Holocaust, is that of the Nazi struggle against Judeo-Christian morality (rooted in the Jewish “ferment of decomposition”).

        OK I’ll read it, so I can explain “ferment of decomposition” to our dear Mooser.

        thanks Shmuel, theology directly from hell. I wasn’t aware of Kalonymus Kalman Shapira. This might be interesting too.

        Mainstream Orthodoxy doesn’t feel quite comfortable with him, it seems:

        In his article about this issue, Amos Goldberg states that other, more traditional portrayals of the Holocaust in Orthodox writings tend to dwell on the miraculous survival of famous rabbis and on the strength of the faith of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe despite their suffering. In contrast, Shapira does not shy away from describing the deterioration of faith in the ghetto. He also wrestles with the difficulty in continued faith in God’s justice under such circumstances, drawing answers from Kabbalah and other Jewish sources. It is important to note, however, that despite these intellectual and emotional struggles, Rabbi Shapira’s faith remained strong and unwavering and he continued to inspire others to the end of his life

      • LeaNder
        March 27, 2012, 9:37 am

        I never seem to manage to make all links work after a minor correction:

        But this is funny, look at the Paperback’s publication date over here:

        Produkt-Information
        A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad von Robert S. Wistrich von Random House Trade Paperbacks (Taschenbuch – 31. Dezember 2035)
        Neu kaufen: EUR 17,99

      • LeaNder
        March 25, 2012, 7:20 pm

        Annie, you got into a trap, but your instincts are good, I think.

        One quote in chapter 9 changed my perception of the Holocaust and Judaism’s weltanschauung completely.

        This statement is as silly as the quote by Abraham Foxman. So this quote caused a paradigm shift? You seem to be quite frugal.

        This is the most relevant evidence in the discussion of the uniqueness of the Holocaust among American Jews offered by Novick?

        Well, it feels there must be more, since in his introduction he writes:

        The grounding of group identity and claims to group recognition in victimhood has produced not just a game of „show and tell,“ with members of the class waving their arms to be called on to recount their story. In Jewish discourse on the Holocaust we have not just a competition for recognition but a competition for primacy.This takes many forms. Among the most widespread and pervasive is an angry insistence on the uniqueness of the Holocaust. Insistence on it’s uniqueness (or denial of its uniqueness) is an intellectually empty enterprise for reasons having nothing to do with the Holocaust itself and everything to do with „uniqueness.“ A moment’s reflection makes clear that the notion of uniqueness is quite vacuous. Every historical event, including the Holocaust, in some ways resembles events to which it might be compared and differs from them in some ways. These resemblances and differences are a perfectly proper subject for discussion. But to single out those aspects of the Holocaust that were distinctive (there certainly were such), and to ignore those aspects that it shares with other atrocities, and on the basis of this gerrymandering to declare the Holocaust unique—like the claim that it is singularly incomprehensible or unrepresentable—is, in practice, deeply offensive. What else can all of this possibly mean except „your catastrophe“, unlike ours, is ordinary; unlike ours is comprehensible; unlike ours is representable.“

        Besides I searched the English edition for Foxman, usually you get all the pages were the search-term appears, even if the page is not available online. In that case you only get a snippet. Well test yourself. 163-165 are not available, but does that fit with chapter 9? But I don’t find your quote.

        Ok, let’s see. The university library here has a German copy, chapter 9, and a context pdf: page 225-265. very, very roughly this could fit with page 163-163. And it is available. I’ll have a look at the context, I want to understand how this quote can cause a paradigm shift for our dear retired Oberstudienrat/term for highschool teachers. I am a good student after all. Can you give me the exact page number, of Klaus?

      • Annie Robbins
        March 25, 2012, 8:56 pm

        thanks LeaNder. i would also be interested in knowing if foxman actually said that. googling the text i saw it was on quite a few questionable sites.

      • tree
        March 26, 2012, 5:11 am

        I have a Kindle copy of Novick’s book, in English. The quote is there:

        From some religious Jews there was another criterion of uniqueness. Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, said that the Holocaust was “not simply one example of genocide but a near successful attempt on the life of God’s chosen children and, thus, on God himself.”

        listed as location 3720 of 7279

        Novick sources the Foxman quote to Foxman’s article, “Schindler’s List-The meaning of Spielberg’s Film,” Front-line (ADL newsletter) 4 (January 1994):2 [ at note 122]

      • Mooser
        March 26, 2012, 2:02 pm

        “this possibly tells us more about you than it does about what makes any particular genocide ‘unique’.”

        Yup, (yes) Annie. It’ll happen every time. And once again, here it goes.
        Next up from Klaus: an explanation of why whatever the hell “the Jews” though about themselves makes the slightest bit of difference.
        Of course, as we remember the Nazis doing the exterminating had a very balanced, nuanced view of themselves, and even in their Ayran heat, a great humility.

    • LeaNder
      March 26, 2012, 6:51 am

      thanks, tree, shmuel, hostage, especially tree, that saves time, I would prefer to read the original too.

      I found this train of thought interesting, since it has been vaguely on my mind too, concerning the offer to Americans at large. Again from the introduction.

      “the other part of my puzzlement was: why here? There is nothing surprising about the Holocaust’s playing a central role in the consciousness of Germany, the country of the criminals and their descendants. … In the case of the United States none of these connections is present. The Holocaust took place thousands of miles from America’s shores. Holocaust survivors or their descendants are a small fraction of 1 percent of the American population, and a small fraction of 1 percent of the American population, and a small fraction of American Jewry as well. …

      And in the United States the Holocaust is explicitly used for the purpose of national self-congratulation: The “Americanization” of the Holocaust has involved using it to demonstrate the difference between the Old World and the New, and to celebrate, by showing its negation, the American way of life. …

      If there are, in fact, lessons to be drawn from history, the Holocaust would seem an unlikely source, not because of its alleged uniqueness, but because of it’s extremity. Lessons for dealing with the sorts of issues that confront us in ordinary life, public or private, are not likely to be found in this most extraordinary of events. There are, in my view, more important lessons about how easily we become victimizers to be drawn from the behavior of normal Americans in normal times than from the behavior of the SS in wartime. In any case, the typical “confrontation” with the Holocaust for visitors to Americans Holocaust museums, and in burgeoning curricula, does not incline us toward thinking of ourselves as potential victimizers–rather the opposite. It is an article of faith in these encounters that one should “identify with the victims,” thus acquiring the warm glow of virtue that such a vicarious confrontation brings.

      …making it the benchmark of oppression and atrocity works in precisely the opposite direction, trivializing crimes of lesser magnitude.

  4. Les
    March 24, 2012, 3:53 pm

    Thanks for the link to a terrific article. It accepts some of Noam Chomsky’s position insofar that Israel is doing what the US wants because there are not differences. Green points out what are side show issues that have gotten in the way to which I would add the debate about the one state versus two state issue which is all about American supporters of Palestinians with virtually no input from Palestinians whose ongoing tragedy continues while supporters are pre-occupied with that particular side show debate.

    • Hostage
      March 25, 2012, 5:41 pm

      which I would add the debate about the one state versus two state issue which is all about American supporters of Palestinians with virtually no input from Palestinians

      I suppose you are talking about Ali Abunimah, who was born in Washington D.C.

      The Hamas Politburo Chief, Khaled Meshaal, praised the bid for Palestinian statehood, and he’s Palestinian.
      link to richardsilverstein.com

      The members of the PLO Executive and the Palestinian Authority who are pursuing the Statehood bid through the UN are all Palestinians. So are the members of the Israeli Bilad party, like Haneen Zoabi. She has also endorsed the two state solution.
      *http://972mag.com/watch-hanin-zoabi-israel-has-no-right-to-live-in-security/36847/

  5. DICKERSON3870
    March 25, 2012, 2:10 am

    RE: “It is no longer unusual for a Jewish writer to lament the manner in which memory of the Holocaust has been incorporated into Jewish-American identity” ~ Green

    SEE: Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths, By Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 11/11/11

    (excerpt). . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness [culminating in the Holocaust], to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
    But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
    Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org
    ALSO SEE – Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
    LINK – link to tikkun.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      March 25, 2012, 2:12 am

      P.S. ALSO SEE: How the Power of Myth Keeps Us Mired in War, by Ira Chernus, TomDispatch.com, 01/20/11

      (excerpt) “. . . White Americans, going back to early colonial times, generally assigned the role of ‘bad guys’ to ‘savages’ lurking in the wilderness beyond the borders of our civilized land. Whether they were redskins, commies, terrorists, or the Taliban, the plot has always remained the same.
      Call it the myth of national security — or, more accurately, national insecurity, since it always tells us who and what to fear.
      It’s been a mighty (and mighty effective) myth…”

      SOURCE – link to commondreams.org

  6. Klaus Bloemker
    March 25, 2012, 5:26 am

    Annie, isn’t a crime usually called ‘unique’ because the manner it is commited is unique – not because the victim is unique. And, are there ‘unique victims’? By Foxman’s definition the death of Gypsies in the Holocaust is not a unique crime but the death of the Jews is. Ask anybody: ‘What makes the Holocaust unique?’ Would the answer be: ‘Because the victims were Jews’ ? – Tell me, what does my thinking tell you about me?

    • weindeb
      March 25, 2012, 10:32 am

      Klaus Bloemker, I think your succinct response to Annie’s implied criticism of a post of yours is both wise and justified, and especially your “…what does my thinking tell you about me?”. This statement of hers I also find puzzling. And btw I more often than not find myself in agreement with Annie Robbins.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 25, 2012, 1:26 pm

      Annie, isn’t a crime usually called ‘unique’ because the manner it is commited is unique – not because the victim is unique………Tell me, what does my thinking tell you about me?

      let’s review what you said:

      Up to this sentence I had thought that the systematic, industrial way the Nazis/SS went about killing the Jews was unique. Now I realized that it was ‘unique’ because the victims consider themselves to be ‘unique’. So, by this definition no other genocide could ever compare to the Jewish Shoa.

      i would be more inclined to agree with you that “a crime usually called ‘unique’ because the manner it is commited is unique”, tho i do not consider the manner in which a crime is committed necessarily alters the nature of the crime. each genocide is unique in itself in one way or another.

      what your thinking in the blockquote tells me about you is that you can completely swing your logic from “a crime usually called ‘unique’ because the manner it is commited” to a crime is ‘unique’ if “the victims consider themselves to be ‘unique’”

      iow, if you have now ‘realized’ it is the victims who define the crime, based on foxman statement (i would not consider foxman’s statement, assuming he said it, persuasive in the least. in fact i think is is completely illogical unless one comes from a brainwashed state, i think many religious people are brainwashed) then this would indicate you were highly persuadable.

      how ‘victims considers themselves’ has nothing to do with the definition of a crime.

  7. yourstruly
    March 25, 2012, 11:20 am

    “can ‘pain as a tradition’ be transformed into empathy and a passion for justice especially beyond one’s own group or community, and why in american political life memory of the holocaust has contributed so little to such a transformation, and indeed has on balance contributed to something quite the opposite?”

    reminds me of pandit nehru’s famous words about how difficult it was to disabuse the indian people of the negative self-image that the conquering british had imposed upon them.

    yet it happens often enough (for example, holocaust survivors supporting justice for palestine) that perhaps the more definitive question is what determines whether a “scar” heals or “does the work of the wound?” seems to me that this may have some relationship to whether or not (and how early in life) one is exposed to the oppression of different peoples, such that the realization sets in that one is not alone in feeling oppressed, generating thereby a sense of solidarity with one’s fellow human beings.

  8. Klaus Bloemker
    March 25, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Thank you for your comment weindeb. I found Annie’s response puzzling because she herself abhors classifying victims by ethnic, religious or gender or whatever criteria (see her article about the soccer fans in Jerusalem). She must have misunderstood my first post.

    • seanmcbride
      March 25, 2012, 2:06 pm

      Klaus,

      You wrote:

      “Thank you for your comment weindeb. I found Annie’s response puzzling because she herself abhors classifying victims by ethnic, religious or gender or whatever criteria (see her article about the soccer fans in Jerusalem). She must have misunderstood my first post.”

      That’s what I thought — we all occasionally misread texts. (Or maybe she is a developing a line of thought that I am misreading.)

      This notion that Foxman seems to suggest — that the Jews collectively (the Jewish people) physically embody God (and are not merely God’s supreme agents on the planet, above all other peoples in this role) — is, uh, interesting. Foxman is a leading member of the organized Jewish establishment. How many other leaders of the Jewish establishment share his views? From whence do these views originate? To what degree are Judaism and Zionism steeped in this outlook?

      Is it fair to describe this mentality as racist? I think so. In fact, synonymizing one’s ethnic group with God is arguably racism at its most extreme.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 25, 2012, 2:34 pm

      klaus, i just saw this. what do you mean? perhaps i did misunderstand you. i thought you were saying you changed your idea about why you thought the holocaust was unique based on foxman’s ideas about why it was unique. or did you mean you understood this point of view now? you said it “changed my perception of the Holocaust and Judaism’s weltanschauung completely”.

      so, do you mean you now agree it was unique because of who the victims were? genocide is, by definition, a crime against an ethnicity or race. i think i could be missing your point.

      • MHughes976
        March 26, 2012, 6:46 pm

        Wouldn’t a crime be uniquely criminal, plumb new depths, if and only if it broke a moral law that everyone before had more or less respected?

  9. Klaus Bloemker
    March 25, 2012, 2:06 pm

    - One more Novick quote -
    Also in chapter 9 Novick writes something that struck me, similar to what Foxman had said (I again have to translate it from the German edition back into English):

    “The saying from the Talmud in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List ‘Who saves one life, saves the world entire’ surely reflects the universalistic values of liberal Judaism as it has evolved in the last centuaries. But the orthodox religious Jews knew that the traditional version as it was taught in all orthodox Yeshivas read: ‘Who saves one life of Israel …’ “

    • Hostage
      March 25, 2012, 6:15 pm

      “The saying from the Talmud in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List ‘Who saves one life, saves the world entire’ surely reflects the universalistic values of liberal Judaism as it has evolved in the last centuaries. But the orthodox religious Jews knew that the traditional version as it was taught in all orthodox Yeshivas read: ‘Who saves one life of Israel …’ “

      That’s a tautology, because the Talmudic sages extended the privilege to Gentiles to become proselytes and members of the congregation of Israel by simply accepting the whole Law. The notion that the congregation of Israel includes those who have become assimilated to it through a universal calling is not unique to Judaism. The idea was popular among the Supersessionists in the Roman Catholic and Reformation era denominations of the Christian Church. The theologians simply disagreed over the qualifications of the various religious parties to claim membership in the body of the faithful remnant.

    • Mooser
      March 26, 2012, 2:12 pm

      “But the orthodox religious Jews knew that the traditional version as it was taught in all orthodox Yeshivas read: ‘Who saves one life of Israel …’

      Klaus, ever think of going into heavy-equipment operation? Hell, that boring machine on the Seattle waterfront can’t dig a hole for itself as fast as you.

      No doubt, before it’s over, Klaus will answer the question: “If you can aford a horse, viaduct?”

  10. Daniel Rich
    March 25, 2012, 6:22 pm

    “The Jews were the worst sufferers in the war. ‘The successive blows of contending armies have all but broken the back of European Jewry and have reduced to tragically unbelievable poverty, starvation and disease about 6,000,000 souls, or half the Jewish population of the earth.” — Felix Warburg, Chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, November 1919

    Source: link to en.wikipedia.org + link to query.nytimes.com

  11. weindeb
    March 25, 2012, 8:09 pm

    Oh, boy, I sometimes think that the parsing and the over-parsing of various nuances of the meanings of phrases from people who are more or less of the same ethno-political persuasion could make an impatient soul like myself downright antisemantic. How many angels can balance on the point of a pin, or, as per the Lilliputians, should we crack the egg from the small or the large end? In reality, aren’t we here jousting over what Annie Robbins or Klaus Bloemker means by simply revisiting the Chosen People concept, another way of expressing uniqueness? Maybe not, and certainly I wouldn’t dare speak for either of these posters, but I do think that if indeed we are examining yet again what the Chosen People means, or has meant, in the 20th and now the 21st Centuries, we might be on to something in terms of what it implies for Israeli attitudes, intentions and activities. I cannot help but think of that appalling American Manifest Destiny of the 19th Century and the apparent political requirement today, at least among the GOP buffoons, of recognizing and proclaiming American Exceptionalism come hell or high water. Dangerous stuff.

    • Mooser
      March 26, 2012, 2:17 pm

      Whatever the “choosen people” meme or concept means or doesn’t mean, as far as I know, the penalty for it isn’t death by genocide.
      Furthermore, I don’t remember anything about the Nazis interrogating their Jewish captives on their understanding of the “chooseness” concept. They were content to “let God sort it out”.
      Did the National Socialist standards for who was a Jew have the slightest connection to what sort of religious or even social concepts the person had? In fact, if I’m not mistaklen, you didn’t tell them you were a Jew, they told you.

      • Hostage
        March 26, 2012, 5:21 pm

        Did the National Socialist standards for who was a Jew have the slightest connection to what sort of religious or even social concepts the person had?

        Of course not, but many believers take the scriptural message of an overarching divine plan of redemption quite literally, i.e. Genesis 50:20 “Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.”

      • Without Walls
        March 26, 2012, 10:47 pm

        some information for god’s use in the sorting process:

        “Dresden’s Jewish population declined from 4675 in 1933, to 1265 in 1941 (the eve of the implementation of the Nazis’ extermination programme), to just a handful [In early February 1945, there were about 800,000 people living in Dresden, perhaps a million. About 640,000 of them were regular residents, the rest were refugees. The two groups sacrificed a total of forty thousand people on February 13 and 14, 1945. Jörg Friedrich, The Fire] – after almost all of those who had remained were forcibly sent to Riga, Auschwitz and Theresienstadt between 1941 and 1945.[107] On the morning of 13 February 1945, the Jews remaining in Dresden were ordered to report for deportation on 16 February. But as one of them, Victor Klemperer, recorded in his diaries: “…on the evening of this 13 February the catastrophe overtook Dresden: the bombs fell, the houses collapsed, the phosphorus flowed, the burning beams crashed on to the heads of Aryans and non-Aryans alike and Jew and Christian met death in the same firestorm; whoever of the [Jews] was spared by this night was delivered, for in the general chaos he could escape the Gestapo. . . .

        A number of factors have made the bombing a unique point of contention and debate. These include the beauty of the city, and its importance as a cultural icon; the deliberate creation of a firestorm;*** the number of victims killed; the extent to which it was a necessary military target; and the fact that it was attacked toward the end of the war, raising the question of whether the bombing was needed to hasten the end.
        . . .
        The Hague Conventions, addressing the codes of wartime conduct on land and at sea, were adopted before the rise of air power. Despite repeated diplomatic attempts to update international humanitarian law to include aerial warfare, it was not updated before the outbreak of World War II. The absence of positive international humanitarian law does not mean that the laws of war did not cover aerial warfare, but there was no general agreement of how to interpret those laws . . .

        The bombing of Dresden has been manipulated by Holocaust deniers and pro-Nazi polemicists—most notably by the British writer David Irving in his book The Destruction of Dresden—in an attempt to establish a moral equivalence between the death toll of Jews in German concentration camps and the indiscriminate killing of German civilians by Allied bombing raids.[115] As such, “grossly inflated” casualty figures have been promulgated over the years, many based on a figure of over 200,000 deaths quoted in a forged version of the casualty report, Tagesbefehl No. 47, that originated with Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels . . .Though no one involved in the bombing of Dresden was ever charged with a war crime, there are those that hold the opinion that the bombing was a war crime.

        According to Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, lawyer and president of Genocide Watch:

        The Nazi Holocaust was among the most evil genocides in history. But the Allies’ firebombing of Dresden and nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also war crimes… We are all capable of evil and must be restrained by law from committing it.[134]

        Historian Donald Bloxham states, “The bombing of Dresden on 13–14 February 1945 was a war crime.”[135] He further argues there was a strong prima facie case for trying Winston Churchill among others and a theoretical case Churchill could have been found guilty. “This should be a sobering thought. If, however it is also a startling one, this is probably less the result of widespread understanding of the nuance of international law and more because in the popular mind ‘war criminal’, like ‘paedophile’ or ‘terrorist’, has developed into a moral rather than a legal categorisation.”[135]

        German author Günter Grass is one of a number of intellectuals and commentators who have also called the bombing a war crime.[136]

        Proponents of the war crime position argue the devastation known to be caused by firebombing was greater than anything that could be justified by military necessity alone, and this establishes their case on a prima facie basis. The Allies were aware of the effects of firebombing, as British cities had been subject to them during the Blitz.[137] War crime proponents say that Dresden did not have a military garrison, that most of the industry was in the outskirts and not in the targeted city centre,[138] and that the cultural significance of the city should have precluded the Allies from bombing it.

        British historian Anthony Beevor wrote that Dresden was considered relatively safe, having been spared previous RAF night attacks, and that at the time of the raids there were up to 300,000 refugees in the city seeking sanctuary from the fighting on the Eastern Front.[139] In Fire Sites, Austrian historian Jörg Friedrich agrees the RAF’s relentless bombing campaign against German cities in the last months of the war served no military purpose . . .
        link to en.wikipedia.org

        *** “German Village was the nickname for a range of residential houses constructed in 1943 by the U.S. Army in the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, roughly a hundred kilometers southwest of Salt Lake City.

        Dugway was a high-security testing facility for chemical and biological weapons. The purpose of the replicas of German homes, which were repeatedly rebuilt after being intentionally burned down, was to perfect tactics in the fire bombing of German residential areas during World War II.

        The US Army employed German emigré architects such as Erich Mendelsohn to create copies as accurate as possible of the dwellings of densely populated poorer population quarters of Berlin. The main goal was to find a tactic to achieve a fire storm in the city center.” link to en.wikipedia.org

        ______

        “Erich Mendelsohn (21 March 1887 – 15 September 1953)[1] was a Jewish German architect, known for his expressionist architecture in the 1920s . . .
        Erich Mendelsohn was born in Allenstein (Olsztyn), East Prussia. . . . He attended a humanist Gymnasium in Allenstein and continued with commercial training in Berlin. . . .In 1908 he began studying architecture at the Technical University of Berlin; two years later he transferred to the Technical University of Munich, where in 1912 he graduated . . .Mendelsohn had long known Chaim Weizmann, later President of Israel. At the start of 1934 he began planning on Weizmann’s behalf a series of projects in Palestine during the British Mandate. In 1935, he opened an office in Jerusalem and planned Jerusalem stone buildings in the International Style that greatly influenced local architecture.[2] In 1938, after dissolving his London office, he took UK citizenship and changed his name to “Eric.” In Palestine, Mendelsohn built many now-famous buildings: Weizmann House and three laboratories at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Anglo-Palestine Bank in Jerusalem, Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, Rambam Hospital in Haifa and others. . . .link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Hostage
        March 27, 2012, 4:59 pm

        The Hague Conventions, addressing the codes of wartime conduct on land and at sea, were adopted before the rise of air power.

        The method used to conduct the bombardment was irrelevant under the terms of existing international law. For example, Article 25 of the Annex to the 1907 Hague Convention stipulated that:

        “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.”

        –http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hague04.asp#art25

        Attacks on built-up civilian areas were only authorized on the basis of absolute military necessity. The post-war accounts reveal many instances in which that was not the case. For example:

        President Roosevelt had died in the spring of 1945, and Harry Truman was now Commander-in-Chief. He asked Marshall about how the U.S. might use the newly invented atomic bomb to end the war with Japan. Marshall felt that whether or not to use the bomb was a political decision, not a military one and he felt that the President, not a general, should decide.

        link to nobelpeacelaureates.org

  12. pnkfloid
    March 25, 2012, 11:32 pm

    “Up to this sentence I had thought that the systematic, industrial way the Nazis/SS went about killing the Jews was unique. Now I realized that it was ‘unique’ because the victims consider themselves to be ‘unique’. So, by this definition no other genocide could ever compare to the Jewish Shoa.”

    I assumed he was being sarcastic, as the concept (of defining the genocide as unique based on who the victims were) is so absurd.

    In any case, all insistence by the Elie Weisel types that the Nazi Holocaust was not-only-unique-but-that-nothing-else-comes-even-close notwithstanding, I have never heard this absurd claim that the uniqueness was derived from the idea that an attack on Jews = attack on God, and I do not believe it in any way contributes to “Judaism’s weltanschauung”.

    Has anyone found a reference for this quote by Foxman?

    • Hostage
      March 26, 2012, 1:24 am

      I have never heard this absurd claim that the uniqueness was derived from the idea that an attack on Jews = attack on God

      Really? The prophecy that the Seed of the Woman will crush the head of the Serpent in Genesis 3:15, and that old Dragon that stood ready to devour the Seed of the Woman as soon as it was born in Revelations 2:4 is a pretty shop-worn theme out here in the Bible Belt, “because salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22).

      Nearly every scriptural account about attempts to massacre the Jews, and all of the persecution endured by the early Church is seen as part of a cosmic attack on God’s chosen instrument of salvation. When I was growing up as a secular Jew, I wished there had been something else on the radio or local television stations on Sunday mornings;-)

      • Without Walls
        March 26, 2012, 10:13 pm

        too bad you didn’t live in Ohio.
        We had Tales of the Mahoning and Shenango Valley, at 5:00, then Sister Sue read the Sunday funnies at 6:00.
        good radio

  13. Klaus Bloemker
    March 26, 2012, 4:37 am

    To Lea, Pnkfloid – and whom it may concern

    The Foxman quote is on page 259 of the German edition and the Schindler’s List/Talmud on page 241.

    Pnfloid has hit the nail on the head: Of course I was sarcastic because of the absurdity of Foxman’s opinion.w

  14. Klaus Bloemker
    March 26, 2012, 5:15 am

    One more note on the context of my ‘paradigm shift’ (Lea)

    As I said, Novick’s book was given to me by a Jewish friend, Hersch. His family, Orthodox Ostjuden, survived a ghetto in Poland and moved to Germany after the war because his father didn’t like communism (and I suspect didn’t like the Polish anti-Semitism either). Anyway, Hersch gives me stuff to read that is critical of Zionism and Orthodox Judaism as Peter Novick is. But whatever he gives me confirms my typical inborn German anti-Judaism as did Novick with the Foxman quote and Spielberg’s misquote of the Talmud (the traditional authoritative Babylonian Talmud).

    • Hostage
      March 26, 2012, 8:21 am

      But whatever he gives me confirms my typical inborn German anti-Judaism as did Novick with the Foxman quote and Spielberg’s misquote of the Talmud (the traditional authoritative Babylonian Talmud).

      The Soncino Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a, footnote 39, indicates that “of Israel” is absent from some texts. link to halakhah.com

      It is also absent from the text of the Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a), where it would make no sense whatever. link to books.google.com

      So the authority for the addition “of Israel” in some texts is doubtful.

      • MHughes976
        March 26, 2012, 6:20 pm

        This is the sort of thing that happens in ancient texts, of course – as with Luke’s ‘Father, forgive them’ verse over which Christian scribes plainly had different feelings, and perhaps different ideas about who ‘they’ were. I suppose that there is evidence that Jewish thinkers, pondering their texts, found the question of the equal value of human lives, Jewish and other, problematic to some degree. Their having a theological problem isn’t the same thing as their having a bad or inhumane disposition, of course. But I think weindeb is right to say or imply that ideas arising in studies and cloisters can be quite dangerous when they escape into the wider world.
        Ideas can be two-edged, can’t they? When I was growing up in the
        deepest and calmest recesses of the Church of England, like and unlike your Bible Belt I suppose, the call for forgiveness because of ignorance seemed to show reasonableness and generosity even in terrible circumstances. But the attribution of ignorance can have, I now see, other and more worrying (even if unintended) aspects.

      • Hostage
        March 26, 2012, 8:59 pm

        This is the sort of thing that happens in ancient texts, of course – as with Luke’s ‘Father, forgive them’ verse over which Christian scribes plainly had different feelings, and perhaps different ideas about who ‘they’ were.

        I suppose it means the Romans, Jews, and Samaritans who rejected him, i.e. He came unto his own, and his own received him not (e.g. compare John 1:11 with Luke 9:52-53). It’s clear from the Jewish literature of the period that the Romans were viewed as descendants of Esau, e.g. See link to books.google.com

        So the ancients would have included the Romans among the prophetic actors and adversaries. In the War of the Jews, Josphus suggests that the prophecy regarding the scepter departing from Judah, Genesis 49:10, was actually a reference to Vespasian:

        But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how,” about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea.

        link to books.google.com

        In any event, the Christian scriptures go out of their way to record the roles played by Pilate, Herod Antipas, the Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin.

      • MHughes976
        March 28, 2012, 10:27 am

        I attended a lecture by Martin Goodman recently in which he remarked that Vespasian’s candidacy was very short of supporting portents and prophecies from his own religion, so Josephus’ announcement of Jewish religious validation was much better than nothing. The pagans couldn’t avoid taking Judaism seriously to some degree: I thought that a very significant point. Goodman considers, I think, that on the Jewish side thinkers of the time did not treat the events of 70 as a holocaust or raise the cry of ‘Never forget!’, but that Trajan’s march on Babylon, a Jewish centre, half a century later created tensions that exploded immediately in the Diaspora Revolt and were never resolved.

      • Hostage
        March 28, 2012, 6:01 pm

        Goodman considers, I think, that on the Jewish side thinkers of the time did not treat the events of 70 as a holocaust or raise the cry of ‘Never forget!’

        Josephus wasn’t the only one who predicted that Vespasian would be the emperor. I’ve commented elsewhere that the father of Rabbinical Judaism, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, and his students befriended the Gentiles who laid siege to Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Zionist fanatics living there in his day. The Sanhedrin subsequently set-up shop on one of the Emperor’s private estates. link to mondoweiss.net

        The importance of the Second Temple is downplayed. Cyrus, who was of the sons of Japheth, built the Second Temple and the Divine Presence never rested on it:

        Even if they had all come up in the time of Ezra, the Divine Presence would not have rested over the second Sanctuary, for it is written: God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, [that means], although God has enlarged Japheth, the Divine Presence rests only in the tents of Shem. — Yoma, folio 9b, and 10a
        ..
        and may He dwell in the tents of Shem: May He cause His Presence to rest in Israel. The interpretation of the Sages, however is: Although God will beautify Japheth, insofar as Cyrus, who was of the sons of Japheth, built the Second Temple, the Shechinah did not rest therein. But where did it rest? In the First Temple, built by Solomon, who was of the sons of Shem. — Rashi’s Commentary, Genesis 9:27

        The leadership didn’t act like it was a great tragedy, but they spoke about it and commemorated it as if it were.

        Trajan’s march on Babylon, a Jewish centre, half a century later created tensions that exploded immediately in the Diaspora Revolt and were never resolved.

        I suspect the much larger uprising in response to Trajan’s attack on the Parthian Kingdom (aka Farsi) simply indicates that the Persians and Babylonia were considered much more essential than the Jerusalem cult. Most of the Jews elected to live in the Diaspora, even during the Second Commonwealth and some of the doctrines of the Pharisee (Farsi?) sect appear to be similar to Persian religious doctrines. There have been a lot of discussions and comparisons regarding the influence of the Greeks on Hellenized Jews, but not as much about Persian influences in the Temple Cult established by Cyrus, in the Babylonian Jewish community, and the diaspora.

    • Mooser
      March 27, 2012, 7:07 pm

      “But whatever he gives me confirms my typical inborn German anti-Judaism”

      “Typical”? “Inborn”? “German”? You would say anything to avoid taking responsibility for, or even acknowledging your deficiencies. ‘My anti-Judaism’ would have been sufficient, don’t you think?
      Not that I would ever infer, or imply for that matter, that your anti-Judaism is lonely in there. I’m sure it has lots of company, and succeeding comments will show us what is in there with it.

  15. johnshoemaker
    March 26, 2012, 6:12 am

    “David Wyman, believe correctly that the Roosevelt administration failed miserably in its treatment of Jewish refugees before and during the war. ”

    Zionists made sure Jews were only allowed to immigrate from Hitler’s Germany to Palestine. Does anyone doubt they influenced Roosevelt thru their control of media to disallow immigrants to US that they wanted on “Exodus” ship? Why is no journalist interested in reporting on this influence?

    • marc b.
      March 27, 2012, 1:32 pm

      Zionists made sure Jews were only allowed to immigrate from Hitler’s Germany to Palestine.

      not true. zionists did influence immigration, but were not as influential as your assertion suggests.

      By September 1939, approximately 282,000 Jews had left Germany and 117,000 from annexed Austria. Of these, some 95,000 emigrated to the United States, 60,000 to Palestine, 40,000 to Great Britain, and about 75,000 to Central and South America, with the largest numbers entering Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia. More than 18,000 Jews from the German Reich were also able to find refuge in Shanghai, in Japanese-occupied China.

  16. Klaus Bloemker
    March 26, 2012, 12:59 pm

    Uniqueness = superiority?

    If there is still any doubt, that Foxman’s concept of Jewish uniqueness implies Jewish/Israeli superiority, here is a quote by David Ben Gurion:

    “My concept of the messianic ideal and vision is not a metaphysical one but a
    socio-cultural-moral one … I believe in our moral and intellectual superiority,
    in our capacity to serve as a model for the redemption of the human race.”

    The ‘intellectual superiority’ of the Jewish people is a matter of empirical evidence or not. I don’t doubt it. – But the ‘moral superiority’?

    The above quote, including ‘… ‘, is from Arthur Hertzberg and Aron Hirt-Manheimer, ‘Jews – The Essence and Character of a People’, HarperCollins 1998, page 17

    – Note, the authors of the book quote Ben Gurion in the affirmative, they don’t criticise his statement. They write, “He [Ben Gurion] was leading his people, through Zionism, to be a moral example for all of humanity”, same page.

    • Mooser
      March 26, 2012, 2:21 pm

      So Jews think of themselves as superior? That any skin off your nose? Does it pick your pocket or break your leg, or leave you in paine?

      Look Klaus, I think of myself as handsome and charming, and a pretty good R&B organist. Everybody has their illusions.

      • Stogumber
        March 26, 2012, 3:00 pm

        Problem is, it’s infectious. Take neocons preaching the moral superiority of “the West”- misleading credulous Christians, which – as Christians – ought to remind that they are sinners among sinners.

      • yourstruly
        March 26, 2012, 10:33 pm

        pardon me, but i’ve heard that in the new testament, as in the old, there are passages which preach violence agains non-believers. if so, smiting non-believers, what’s that, if not thinking oneself superior to some unworthy other?

      • Mooser
        March 27, 2012, 7:11 pm

        “Problem is, it’s infectious.”

        Well you’re in good company. You wouldn’t be the first to say that all our problems stem from the Jews, and no decent society can afford to have Jews amongst its members.
        Of course, in the case of male infants, there is a need for extreme caution and explicit medical instruction, backed by good legal help.

      • weindeb
        March 26, 2012, 3:00 pm

        Are you deliberately being obtuse or do you sincerely misunderstand what a belief in the Chosen People concept might mean beyond people normally having their illusions, especially when people actually believe such a concept even as in the United States even now all too many insist on American Exceptionalism and without a doubt accept that historic illusion (if you wish to call it that) of Manifest Destiny? Seems to me the three, Chosen People, Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, are blood brothers, and I do mean “blood”. I mean assigning to oneself with innumerable justifications a god-like significance that enables one to do as he bloody well pleases, whether steal the land of Native Americans and kill them with impunity or establish also with impunity facts on the ground stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and perhaps beyond. I hardly think the Nazis attacked and slaughtered Jews because of an historical Jewish Chosen People conviction – they needed no excuses – but I do think that as has been demonstrated through Zionist philosophy, at least as it has been playing out now for decades, this ordinarily unstated conviction might well underly Israel’s continuing and indeed daily expanding contravention of international law and account for its apartheid and the indispensible racism associated with such a practice.

      • Hostage
        March 26, 2012, 5:33 pm

        I mean assigning to oneself with innumerable justifications a god-like significance that enables one to do as he bloody well pleases, whether steal the land of Native Americans and kill them with impunity or establish also with impunity facts on the ground stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and perhaps beyond.

        There isn’t any evidence that Foxman is talking about anything other than the old-fashioned idea of Tikkun Olam – and that doesn’t enable one “to do as he bloody well pleases”. So I’m underwhelmed by the effort to build a mountain out of this particular molehill (and I actually dislike Foxman).

      • weindeb
        March 26, 2012, 9:06 pm

        I’m not sure exactly who has “underwhelmed” you vis a vis Foxman, whom I never referenced and most likely never will. You seem to have a case either of mistaken identity or extrapolationism. I was discussing the concepts of “Chosen People, Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny” as they might impact political and other strategies, as I believe that you could relate all three of these concepts, however they’re identified, to Israeli facts on the ground, those already accomplished from years back and those that likely will be tomorrow and thereafter, not unlike what has been so in American history and to some extent still is.

      • Without Walls
        March 26, 2012, 10:07 pm

        “I hardly think the Nazis attacked and slaughtered Jews because of an historical Jewish Chosen People conviction – they needed no excuses –”

        [examples of the] anti-Semitic incitement that charged the Jews with responsibility for Germany’s defeat in the war (the DOLCHSTOSSLEGENDE, or “stab-in-the-back” myth) and for the economic and social crises that struck the newly born republic מרכז המידע אודות השואה, יד ושם ביה”ס המרכזי להוראת השואה 2
        after the war, reaching their climax in the terrible inflation of 1922 and 1923.
        The presence of Jews from eastern Europe (Ostjuden), who had immigrated to Germany before, during, and after the war, was also a favorite subject of anti- Semitic incitement.

      • Hostage
        March 27, 2012, 2:33 pm

        I’m not sure exactly who has “underwhelmed” you vis a vis Foxman, whom I never referenced and most likely never will.

        Your remarks are part of a comment thread. At the very top, Klaus said: If there is still any doubt, that Foxman’s concept of Jewish uniqueness implies Jewish/Israeli superiority, here is a quote by David Ben Gurion: & etc.

        I also subscribe to the view that elements of traditional Judaism are responsible for the current situation in Palestine. The latter-day Jewish prophets clearly embraced universalism, and rejected particularism. That led to schisms which have lingering effects today. All of that is reflected in traditions about the belief in an “exile” for hatred without a cause; the story of the 18 decrees aimed at separating Jews from Gentiles; and the need for repentance out of love and permission from the other nations before there can be any return to the promised land. Many believe the return is simply an allegorical device that represents the world to come. In any event, the xenophobia that triggered the end of the 2nd Commonwealth wasn’t an indispensable part of Jewish beliefs thereafter.

    • Hostage
      March 26, 2012, 5:04 pm

      If there is still any doubt, that Foxman’s concept of Jewish uniqueness implies Jewish/Israeli superiority, here is a quote by David Ben Gurion

      That’s a non-sequitur. Ben Gurion was never a self-professed Orthodox Jew, like Foxman and there is no evidence that they shared the same concept of “Jewishness”.

      The Hebrew scriptures relate that God chose to make Jacob and his family a great and mighty nation with a special redemptive mission. The fact is that many religious Jews and Gentiles find meaning or purpose in the biblical stories, for good and for bad. This is not news to most of us.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        March 26, 2012, 7:11 pm

        Hostage — you say: “religious Jews and Gentiles find meaning or purpose in the biblical stories, for good and for bad.”

        That may be so – but I can’t find meaning in what you say.

        And by the way, Ben Gurion says explicitly that his concept of Judaism isn’t a metaphysical one i.e. biblical one – In case you didn’t notice.

      • Hostage
        March 27, 2012, 1:05 pm

        That may be so – but I can’t find meaning in what you say.

        I’m a secular Jew, but everything I’ve been writing about here is pretty much standard Judaism or Christian Theology 101. Try reading the references that I’ve provided.

        And by the way, Ben Gurion says explicitly that his concept of Judaism isn’t a metaphysical one i.e. biblical one

        I’m aware that, for most of his life, Ben Gurion was a non-observant secular Jew. There’s ample evidence in his public speeches that he was very familiar with the scriptures and ancient historical accounts and that he used them for political ends related to the Holocaust industry. There are also accounts that his views may have changed somewhat in latter life:

        I said, ‘Ben-Gurion, all your life you were sort of an atheist?’ He said, ‘In the last years of his life, Albert Einstein believed in God, and if Einstein could, I could, too”.

        link to njjewishnews.com

        It’s just as likely that Einstein and Ben Gurion were discussing the “God” of Spinoza. I’ve commented at length elsewhere on Ben Gurion’s personal disregard for the victims of the European genocide while the events on the ground were unfolding: link to mondoweiss.net

        But you’ve been discussing Foxman’s Orthodox Jewish views about the God of Israel and Jewishness. He’s a Holocaust survivor who lost 14 family members. He was raised as a Catholic by one of his Christian rescuers. He is expressing standard post-Holocaust Orthodox thinking about the unique role of the victims in an apocalyptic plan of redemption. It’s obvious that you don’t understand that.

  17. Klaus Bloemker
    March 26, 2012, 3:18 pm

    Look Mooser – I don’t doubt your illusions. But there is a theorem in Sociology: ‘If an illusion is thought to be real’ – it’s real in its consequences. — See Nazi Germany and the state of Israel.

    • Mooser
      March 27, 2012, 1:47 pm

      “I don’t doubt your illusions.”

      Should have seen me Sunday night. The audience didn’t doubt at least one of them.
      Didn’t fool them about the handsome and charming part, but I did the best I could.

      Okay Klaus, whatever you say. It was just fine for the Nazis to go on a dispossession and extermination campaign against the Jews because the Jews were so goddam stuck-up and cliquish. What else could they do?

      • Mooser
        March 27, 2012, 7:16 pm

        Besides, Klaus, look at it this way; with me around, you’ll never have to supply a link or citation for Jewish deficiencies or shortcomings, my comment archive is always available, and Superior court proceedings are public.

Leave a Reply