Michael Oren’s misuse of the Holocaust

Israel/Palestine
on 22 Comments
Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren

Have we all gone mad? When I read former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s statement, I was dumbfounded. Oren states that Palestinians and Jews “choose to live apart” from one another and that to attempt to brand the “complex” historical situation in the West Bank as apartheid is an effort to delegitimize Jews that is reminiscent of the Holocaust.

He insists we owe our allegiance to Zionist Israel despite information recklessly skewed and cruelly manipulated. That Oren himself expresses such distorted words is at once frightening and untrustworthy. Why has he not shown the courage to speak out against what he surely knows to be reality: Palestinian suffering occurs under the cruelest occupation in the form of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing. All too familiar are the footprints of nationalism and exceptionalism. Oren betrays his own fear of speaking the truth. He mouths lies spewed out haphazardly to distort the crimes against humanity.

Lillian Rosengarten

Lillian Rosengarten

Is it not familiar to some of us old enough to remember? “We do what we are told.” But where is personal responsibility? I have no respect for Oren, for sadly he too has lost his humanity as he pledges his allegiance to the fantasy of a once-hoped-for beacon of light that lives no more.

Anti-Semitism has been distorted and applied to dissenters as a means to cover up lies and crimes. It is a true crime to use the label “anti-Semite” to keep the status of apartheid and control in place. By now, many of us know the idealized vision for a Jewish State only does not speak for most Jews. Zionism and Judaism are not interchangeable. Zionism today is a distorted incarnation of what was once created from the ashes of the Holocaust to be a safe haven for Jews within a model of a secular nation state. The Jewish community throughout the world but especially in the US and Europe, must learn to distinguish between secular Jew and Zionist Jew. This gives permission to stand up and say “No” and to debate the issues from a human rights perspective.

To support the apartheid directives and the brutal forms of ethnic cleansing is to do an enormous disservice to what it means to be a Jew. To pretend Israel is a peace loving democracy is to be cajoled into a deception that pretends Israel is something it is not. Most important, what has been done to the Palestinians by the Zionists in the name of Jews is false. Attempts to blur the distinction between Zionist nationalism and Jewish religion is both flagrantly dishonest and desperate. To twist the memory of the Holocaust that was an indescribable hell meant to create an Aryan utopia, is revisionist history and an outrage of immense proportions.We must say “No” to the worn-out, tired attempts to use Holocaust language to create fear and guilt for Jews who live outside Palestine/Israel as well as Germans who in large part are afraid to criticize Zionist Israel’s human rights abuses for fear of the label, “Anti-Semite.”

Oren states Palestinians and Jews “choose to live apart” from one another and that to attempt to brand the “complex” historical situation in the West Bank as apartheid is an effort to delegitimize Jews that is reminiscent of the Holocaust. The charge of “delegitimizing Israel” requires one to question what the Zionist Israeli government is hiding and whether Israel has not delegitimized itself after more than six decades of illegal human rights violations. In the words of Tony Judt, “The delegitimization issue is a fraud. I know no one however angry about Israel’s behavior who thinks the country has no right to exists.”

He adds, “Delegitimization is just another way to invoke anti-Semitism as a silencer.” (Palestine Chronicle, 15th February 2012.)

What an offense to the struggle by Palestinians for liberation and freedom with dignity, and what an offence to the memory of the Holocaust.

A Jewish State created through subjugation, occupation and collective punishment and humiliation of Palestinian neighbors is not a democracy. This is not news. But these same people cry “Anti-Semitism” at those who deplore Israel’s actions and dissent in any form it takes. I wish to reiterate, as I have written about many times about a government that has fallen into a black hole without the ability to reflect or empathize: Israel’s hard line has taken away its humanity. It is not healthy to occupy another country, for it violates the rights of individuals to be free, to live their own culture and religion with dignity.

About Lillian Rosengarten

Lillian Rosengarten is author of the book “Survival and Conscience: From The Shadow Of Nazi Germany To The Jewish Boat To Gaza."(October 2015, Just World Books) It has been published in German as: “ Ein bewegtes Leben: Von den Schatten Nazi-Deutschlands zum judischen Boot nach Gaza” (Zambon 7/14). Her website is lillianrosengarten.com

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22 Responses

  1. Balfour
    June 11, 2014, 1:42 pm

    The end of the world rhetoric of Michael Oren and his ilk remains the same as it has always been, it is Netanyahu’s overplaying his hand and the Israeli refusal to “negotiate” during the latest round of “Peace Talks” that places the silliness of their comments in a new, more skeptical public light.

  2. thetruthhurts
    June 11, 2014, 3:46 pm

    “It is a true crime to use the label “anti-Semite” to keep the status of apartheid and control in place.” very well said, no perfectly well said!
    if i was president i would, indeed, make it a “true crime'” punishable by no less than imprisonment(no sweetheart backroom connection deals)if the label was actually used to quash free speech rather than its real purpose.

    • yonah fredman
      June 11, 2014, 6:35 pm

      thetruthhurts- I don’t know what country you live in, but in the US the president does not legislate, the congress does. And to make it a crime to label someone as an antisemite for purposes of protecting Israel, would be an abridgment of free speech. If congress would pass such a law the supreme court would and should find it unconstitutional. But I don’t know what country you live in. Maybe where you are the president makes the laws and has no constitution to reckon with. Sounds like you are not dealing with the American situation.

  3. German Lefty
    June 11, 2014, 5:21 pm

    I agree with much of what Lillian wrote. Here’s what I disagree with:

    In the words of Tony Judt, “The delegitimization issue is a fraud. I know no one however angry about Israel’s behavior who thinks the country has no right to exists.”

    Numerous people are of the opinion that NO country has a RIGHT to exist. “Numerous people” includes me. “No country” includes Israel.
    If Israel actually had the RIGHT to exist, then we would have to ask ourselves what this means. Does Israel have the right to exist as a “Jewish state” (= Zionism)? Or does Israel have the right to exist as an “Israeli state” (= non-Zionism)? When Zionists say that anti-Zionists deny Israel’s right to exist, they mean Israel as a “Jewish state”. Therefore, their “accusation of delegitimisation” is totally correct. However, the delegitimisation of political Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Nobody has the right to found a supremacist state on stolen land. And Jews are not above the laws. Whenever a Zionist accuses me of denying Israel’s right to exist (as a Jewish state), I simply reply: “If Israel has the right to exist as a ‘Jewish state’, then Germany has the right to exist as an ‘Aryan state’. Equal rights for everyone.”
    I don’t have a problem with the fact that there’s a state called “Israel”. I have a problem with the kind of state that Israel is. Israel must be an Israeli state, not a Jewish state. Just like Germany is a German state, not an Aryan state.

    A Jewish State created through subjugation, occupation and collective punishment and humiliation of Palestinian neighbors is not a democracy.

    Palestinians are NOT neighbours of the “Jewish state”. They are the indigenous people of Palestine. And Palestine consists of Israel (78%) and Gaza/West Bank (22%).
    Palestinians are NOT the neighbours of Israelis. 20% of Israelis ARE Palestinians. If Israel didn’t deny Palestinian refugees their right of return, the percentage of Palestinian Israelis would be MUCH higher.

    Israel’s hard line has taken away its humanity.

    Israel was founded as a Jewish supremacist state by ethnically cleansing most of the indigenous Palestinian people (Nakba). Therefore, Israel has NEVER had a humanity. It was inhumane right from the start. However, Israel could BECOME humane by turning into an “Israeli state”.

    • CloakAndDagger
      June 11, 2014, 7:48 pm

      @ German Lefty

      Completely agree with your post.

    • Woody Tanaka
      June 11, 2014, 10:36 pm

      great post, GL!!

    • zhaomafan
      June 12, 2014, 12:45 pm

      wrong on many points. Germany has brought in millions of volksdeutscher — german speaking inhabitants of Eastern Europe — under preferential immigration arrangements. That doesnt make it an Aryan-preferring nation, just a state where rights of entry and settlement are preferential. A valid test in terms of apartheid would however have to include at the very least whether or not once admitted into citizenship, people have equal rights under law. That is a separate issue from the issues raised by social discrimmination. Well, israel’s 20% Arab population –although no doubt suffering pretty extensive social discrimination of various forms — have the right to vote, to run for political office, etc etc. None of the facts about social discrimination which can be adduced in the charge sheet against the State of Israel can change the fact that this doesnt add up to apartheid. Similary, it is easier for ethnic japanese to obtain immigration and permanent residence in Japan than for non ethnic japanese. that does not make Japan a racist state, although there is plenty of social discrimination. FInally, the most surprising example of all — surprising in that no-one mentions it very often — is our neighbour, the republic of Ireland. It takes astonishingly slight connections, in terms of “blood lines”, to make a successful claim for Irish citizenship. I as a Jew of Eastern European background dont have the ability to claim Irish citizenship because I have no Irish blood flowing through my veins. So what?

      On the issue of indigenous people —- come on, where do you draw the line? Are the Copts the “indigenous Egyptians”? Remember that the Arabs didnt show up in the Levant and Palestine until relatively recently (i mean by that some 1400 years ago). It’s a mug’s game, playing the indigenous card. There are plenty of claimants. Perhaps the Jews and the Samaritans should make this claim. The “Canaanites” and Moabites and all the others mentioned in the old testament as well, except that they dont exist anymore. But jews and Samaritans do — does that exclude the modern-day Palestinians, be they christian or muslim? Not in my opinion. But it does mean that claims made on the basis of legitimacy through indigenousness are spurious, IMHO.

      So what’s the claim of the jews? Sure, their history. But also their mere presence in increasingly large numbers over the course of the 19th century. During which time (and since) there have, around the world, been lots of displacements of populations (only partial in the case of the Palestinians, and in much smaller numbers than their current population). Nowadays we dont approve (one of the reasons i am against expansion of settlements). But to some extent, we all have to adjust to the things that happened in earlier periods. I can cite the Greeks and Turks. The Indians and the Pakistanis. Etc etc — there are plenty of examples. I want to see a Pal state, and practical measures by Pal political class to focus on the development and reconstruction their people really need. And an abandonment of the wish to turn back the clock……. Sorry if that sounds harsh but if you think about the Greeks and the Turks, and imagine yourselves urging upon them the kind of revanchist reconquista which you urge upon the Palestinians, you might see that this is all rather heroic but in no-one’s interest…..

      • Annie Robbins
        June 12, 2014, 1:17 pm

        A valid test in terms of apartheid would however have to include at the very least whether or not once admitted into citizenship, people have equal rights under law.

        well they don’t have equal rights. there are over 50 laws which discriminate on the basis of ethnicity: http://adalah.org/eng/Israeli-Discriminatory-Law-Database

        so there is your “valid test”, this is more than “social discrimination” it is LEGAL discrimination

        the fact that this doesnt add up to apartheid.

        there is no “fact” of which you speak, there is only your hasbara. i would urge you, at a minimum, to look up the definition of ‘crime of apartheid’ and educate yourself on the definition of the crime because it is quite clear you don’t know what you’re talking about or else you’re being willfully deceptive.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 12, 2014, 1:27 pm

        they dont exist anymore. But jews and Samaritans do — does that exclude the modern-day Palestinians

        it certainly would exclude modern-day jews from europe who arrived and colonized palestine. talk about recent!

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 12, 2014, 1:50 pm

        “Germany has brought in millions of volksdeutscher — german speaking inhabitants of Eastern Europe — under preferential immigration arrangements.”

        That’s ignorant. The millions of German speakers from Eastern Europe were not “brought in” by Germany “under preferential immigration arragements,” they were ethnically cleansed from, primarily, parts of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, while the German government did not exist and was under the control of the Allied Occupation Authorities. It was a crime against humanity.

        “A valid test in terms of apartheid would however have to include at the very least whether or not once admitted into citizenship, people have equal rights under law”

        Nonsense, because all an apartheid state would need do is withhold citizenship or strip citizenship from the people it wishes to oppress — as Israel does to the Palestinians living in de-facto Israel beyond the green line — in order to avoid the charge. Nothing “valid” in that.

        “this doesnt add up to apartheid.”

        And Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu have called it Apartheid. But I guess you know better than them. What do they know about Apartheid, amirite??

        “Remember that the Arabs didnt show up in the Levant and Palestine until relatively recently”

        And most Palestinians are descendants from the population that existed prior to the Arab expansion, so are properly indiginous, regardless of when their linguistic or culture history there started.

        “But to some extent, we all have to adjust to the things that happened in earlier periods. ”

        Well, since the Jews of Europe who formulated the ideology of Zionism and put it into practice didn’t accept that, and, indeed, worked exactly to the opposite, I think that it is only fair that we all accept that “adjustment” principle once Zionism no longer exists.

        “I want to see a Pal state…”

        And here comes the bigotry. Do you want to call Israel a “Heeb” state?

      • Bumblebye
        June 12, 2014, 2:40 pm

        @zhaoumafan
        “Arabs didnt show up in the Levant and Palestine until relatively recently”

        A few did 1400 years ago. A large proportion of the rest of the indigenous people (Jewish, Christian and whatever else was around) adopted the new religion they brought, and the new language that went with it.

      • MHughes976
        June 12, 2014, 4:41 pm

        The right to enfranchised existence depends in most circumstances on living peacefully in the place concerned (which includes paying reasonable taxes and not owing one’s presence to invasion or marauding unresolved by any agreement with former victims) and therefore sustaining by rational means the sovereign power, which should, in rational response to this sustenance and support, allow representation in government. It follows that those beholden entirely or mainly to violence without agreement have no right to stay and that those deprived by violence do have a right of return unless and until they accept citizenship elsewhere. But it is possible that over long passages of time, that by a series of agreements – treaties or simply customs accepted over many lifetimes – which regularise the position of formerly invading groups and by a series of decisions whereby refugees become members of other societies, that very few, even none, of the descendants of those who were once indigenous, have citizen rights in the place concerned and that all who do have those rights are descended from former immigrants, even invaders.
        The Palestinians, of course, have not been party to any agreement regularising the Israeli presence and have not, at least not to an extent great enough to resolve the problem, accepted citizenship elsewhere.
        It may be thought good that any agreement recognise all the traditions of the area: in which case it should be remembered in Palestine that the Israelite and Palestinian presence both go back to around 1200 BCE.

  4. yonah fredman
    June 11, 2014, 7:02 pm

    Lillian Rosengarten writes, “The Jewish community throughout the world but especially in the US and Europe, must learn to distinguish between secular Jew and Zionist Jew. This gives permission to stand up and say “No” and to debate the issues from a human rights perspective.”

    I assume Lillian Rosengarten specifies secular Jew in the first sentence because she wishes “to debate the issues from a human rights perspective” in the second sentence. And I guess she doubts whether nonsecular Jews would have the ability to debate the issues from a human rights perspective. But obviously many Jews who would not consider themselves secular (or at least not purely secular) would argue that they are capable of arguing the issues from a human right perspective notwithstanding the fact that they include nonsecular lines of thought in their beliefs and thinking. Although earlier in the paragraph she differentiates between Judaism and Zionism, here it almost seems as if she equates nonsecular Judaism with Zionism, although a careful study of her words reveals another possible meaning that I specified, which is still untrue, but at least not antithetical to her point.

    Also there is rhetoric that can be summed up as “Why doesn’t he agree with me?” or worse “Why doesn’t he admit that he agrees with me?” Oren’s latest statements rub me the wrong way and are worthy of dispute, but this line of rhetoric sounds like cant to me and not logic or real argument.

    • Mooser
      June 11, 2014, 9:26 pm

      ” But obviously many Jews who would not consider themselves secular (or at least not purely secular) would argue that they are capable of arguing the issues from a human right perspective notwithstanding the fact that they include nonsecular lines of thought in their beliefs and thinking.”

      How right you are, any non-secular Jew who argues the issues from a human-rights perspective will probably end up anti-Zionist, and feel he is religiously justified in that position. I’m glad you recognize that, Yonah. It’ll make things much easier for you when Zionism is expunged from Judaism. Just keep in mind there indeed is a human-rights perspective to Judaism, and it must, eventually, exclude Zionism, and you’ll feel a lot better about moving.

    • Woody Tanaka
      June 11, 2014, 10:45 pm

      I think that she is right and you’re wrong. The crimes that were talking about here have, as their primary engines, two types of people: Jews and others who simply don’t give a damn about human rights when it is Palestinians were suffering and Jews who are benefiting and second religious Jews for whom the notions that this is a “promised land” or was given to the Jews by God are taken seriously and not as a ancient myth which should horrify anyone to consider taking it seriously.

      Once you include the religious Jews, then you have to tiptoe around the nonsense about God giving the Jews this land or the Jews’ “right” to the Muslim’s property at al Haram ash Sharif and, in doing so, you undermine any notion of reaching any just conclusion for the Palestinians based on human rights. Because those religious motion are the very core of the problem.

    • Walid
      June 12, 2014, 1:13 am

      Yonah, you’re saying in a polite way that you agree that Oren is an a-hole. You’re also doing your damndest to keep aberrant Zionism in the closet.

  5. eGuard
    June 11, 2014, 8:07 pm

    Lillian Rosengarten, bolding added by me, eG: Zionism today is a distorted incarnation of what was once created from the ashes of the Holocaust to be a safe haven for Jews within a model of a secular nation state. (no: Zionism was racist from patient zero).

    as I have written about many times about a government that has fallen into a black hole without the ability to reflect or empathize: Israel’s hard line has taken away its humanity. (no: Isreal’s line since 1948 did)

    what has been done to the Palestinians by the Zionists in the name of Jews is false (no: also without that ‘name of’)

    I bet at first Rosengarten’s ilk do not read the teeths of the saw. Let me tell you: all quotes state that Zionism if only put in another mould would have made Israel Good (why not ever ask a Palestinian?). There are better ways to desavour this Oren. This is the kill-Oren-save-Zionism route.

    • MHughes976
      June 12, 2014, 4:50 pm

      You’re so right, eG. My definition of Zionism, which I bore you with quite often, is ‘the belief that Jewish people, and they only, have an inherent right (now commonly called birthright) to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land; others having that right only by the grace and generosity of the true heirs’ – this has been the position since 1948, or really since the Zionist congress of 1905 which rejected the rival idea that Jewish people have a right to sovereignty somewhere to be agreed, but not specifically in Palestine. I think that Zionism, so considered, is a mistaken proposition, though many good people supported it. It could never have been put into effect without enormous suffering and injustice – no mistaken proposition with big consequences ever could be – as was proved in 48, not just in 67, though God Almighty knows that 67 and each miserable year since has added much to the suffering and injustice involved. But turning the clock back some of the way to 67 will not change the fact that a mistaken proposition was treated as true and that terrible suffering followed.

    • German Lefty
      June 12, 2014, 5:51 pm

      Addition: Here’s a 2010 interview with Lillian.
      http://mondoweiss.net/2010/10/we-wouldnt-eat-their-sandwiches-an-interview-with-lillian-rosengarten.html
      The article is kind of contradictory. On the one hand, Phil claims that Lillian “was never a Zionist”. On the other hand, Lillian is quoted as saying: “Israel always did exist in my mind as an ideal. My image of Israel was this place of return, a refuge for all the Jews, a place where Jews are good to one another, a country where they can be free and safe. Now I think, what was it all about? That this country, that’s supposed to be a haven to Jews, where Jews are going to be safe, can act like this. […] I’m feeling tremendous grief, but mostly it’s grief about Israel. The road that it’s taken.”
      Apparently, she is a Zionist who experiences cognitive dissonance.

  6. Chu
    June 12, 2014, 10:02 am

    “Zionism today is a distorted incarnation of what was once created from the ashes of the Holocaust to be a safe haven for Jews within a model of a secular nation state. ”

    Zionism precedes the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a major impetus in later migration to Palestine, but not the root issue (which is often misunderstood).

    And German Lefty makes a salient point above:
    G.L. -“Nobody has the right to found a supremacist state on stolen land. And Jews are not above the laws.”

  7. zhaomafan
    June 12, 2014, 10:56 am

    The quote from Tony Judt is absurd (“I know no one however angry about Israel’s behavior who thinks the country has no right to exists.”) (sic)

    I have met plenty of people who contest Israel’s right to exist. Advocates of the so-called “One-state solution” want to so fundamentally change the nature of the state that it is disingenuous to suggest these advocates do not contest the right of Israel to exist. Similarly, the many marchers i have seen on the streets of london, brandishing posters with israel eliminated and substituted by a Palestinian state —these people, too, deny the right of Israel to exist. It is clear that for these two groups of people, the goal is not to improve Israel’s democratic character by ending the very real prejudice and destructive practices which bring great hardship to many Palestinians —rather, they seek to end Israel. Why is this so hard to admit?

    She also conflates secularism with anti-Zionism. I am a completely irreligious, culturally secular jew who supports the creation of a Palestinian state and opposes the settlements policies, which are not just a mistake but bring great hardships. And yet, if Zionism is an affirmation of the principle of a Jewish state — the right of jews to assert their own ethno-nationalism as everyone else seems to be entitled to do —– then throw whatever brickbats you’d like — i am a zionist. And yet, a zionist who was glad to have represented (on a pro-bono basis), as a lawyer, a Palestinian woman who claimed refugee status in canada vis a vis three countries all of which denied her protection (ie residence, citizenship, passport etc): Kuwait, where she grew up and trained and qualified as an architect; Egypt, where she was born; and Israel, birthplace of her father. It was my view that she had a legitimate claim on all three bases. We won — Canada took her in. Who had denied her human rights? — Israel, Kuwait and Egypt. How can I be a “zionist” when I represented a Palestinian and asserted that denial of citizenship by ALL THREE countries was a denial of her human rights? I dont think it was hard —- the right of return is not going to happen in large numbers, and guess what? international law doesnt require Israel to offer it, but people still deserve legal redress. She got more from Canada than Israel, Egypt or Kuwait was offering – which was nothing. But that just makes Israel a flawed democracy in a very peculiar geo-political situation. I am still a zionist.

  8. hophmi
    June 12, 2014, 3:19 pm

    “In the words of Tony Judt, “The delegitimization issue is a fraud. I know no one however angry about Israel’s behavior who thinks the country has no right to exists.”

    Really. Clearly, Tony didn’t spend much time at Mondoweiss.

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