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At Auschwitz: ‘The IDF is the Jewish people’s answer to the Holocaust’

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Malcolm Hoenlein of Conference of Presidents, seated amid Israeli Knesset at Auschwitz, photo by Shmuley Boteach

Malcolm Hoenlein of Conference of Presidents, seated amid Israeli Knesset at Auschwitz, photo by Shmuley Boteach

A little under half of the Israeli Knesset visited Auschwitz yesterday to commemorate the liberation of the death camp. Many American supporters of Israel went too. The photo above is by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and is said to picture Israeli parliamentarians, though American Zionist leader Malcolm Hoenlein is in the foreground.

US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is in this picture, alongside Hoenlein:

Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor and Hoenlein

Boteach live-tweeted the event, down to a selfie with Israeli minister Naftali Bennett, who opposes a Palestinian state and has called for Palestinians to become citizens of Jordan.

Boteach and Bennett at Auschwitz

Boteach and Bennett at Auschwitz

Boteach posted another smiling selfie with the head of El Al Airlines.

The commemoration has sparked some expressions of cynicism about the exploitation of the Holocaust. Max Blumenthal tweeted that, “Enforcers of a regime of ethnic purity and authors of laws targeting racial outcasts” had gathered at Auschwitz. To which, “Jews and Palestine” said, “I share intensely your cynicism about Israel but the Shoah is sacred, and yes not just to and for Jews.” Blumenthal: “which is why these crude racists are such an affront.”

Boteach mentions the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust and at Auschwitz. Millions of others were also killed, but there’s no recognition of that in his reports. Norman Finkelstein’s mother survived a death camp, and he has said that much of Holocaust remembrance serves “Jewish aggrandizement. The time is long past to open our hearts to the rest of humanity’s suffering. This was the main lesson my mother imparted.”

Some are using the remembrance as an effort to justify the militant policies of Israel. “As we remember those who perished, we pave the way for a better future,” the IDF spokesperson said, in tweeting this picture:

IDF poster

IDF poster

The IDF is the revival of the Jewish people? What kind of crass, narrowminded view is that?  And who exactly gets to make the determination that the “revival” of the Jewish people is embodied by a brutal military force?

BTW, Gantz described the Israeli onslaught against Gaza in 2008-2009, which killed nearly 400 children, as an “excellent” operation.

Rania Khalek was also disturbed by the picture above.


Scott Roth

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38 Responses

  1. seafoid on January 28, 2014, 9:59 pm

    The IDF is the wrong answer.
    The golden calf was the wrong answer too.
    It’s very hard to see the light sometimes.

    And even if you built your new language around the IDF it’s the wrong answer. Even if everyone you know believes it’s the answer it’s the wrong answer. Even your mother is wrong and misguided. It takes guts to see that, to dump all the baggage and to start over but that’s the only way.

    Because the kids deserve no less. You have to do it for them.

  2. K Renner on January 28, 2014, 10:26 pm

    The response to Auschwitz is an army of trigger-happy sub-par “soldiers” that think that Arabs in general are intrinsically worthless and don’t care about how much collateral they accumulate, because they can always make something up to cover their asses?

    An army that’s so sub-par today that it can only really “win” with overwhelming firepower and nothing else?

    I’m not sure I’d want what he’s smoking, but it does seem pretty potent.

  3. doug on January 28, 2014, 10:41 pm

    There’s a reason the US eschewed having a standing army until last century. A hammer is always in wont of a nail. It’s the same everywhere.

  4. wondering jew on January 28, 2014, 11:24 pm

    According to you, Phil, the answer to the Holocaust is to shrug your shoulders about the disappearance of the Jews and their culture.

    The devastation of the Holocaust may not require a response, as in, if you believe in God and the Torah, and you keep Shabbat and the holidays and try with all your life and all your ways to adhere to God’s path, then setbacks, even setbacks like the Shoah are just tests or bumps in the road and keeping the Torah is the response.

    Saul Bellow felt that the blow of watching movies of bulldozers push naked Jewish bodies into pits required a type of macho response that he felt was embodied in Israel and its army.

    I suppose I really prefer neither the Torah believer’s response to the Shoah (as paraphrased above) nor Bellow’s response to it, but your response of shrugging your shoulders at the prospect of the disappearance of the Jewish culture certainly appeals to me less than either of these two.

    • talknic on January 29, 2014, 2:14 am

      @ yonah fredman “According to you, Phil, the answer to the Holocaust is to shrug your shoulders about the disappearance of the Jews and their cultu …”

      Quote? Evidence? Any#^&*@^ingthing?

      • marc b. on January 29, 2014, 8:57 am

        it’s enough to insinuate that Weiss denies the significance of the holocaust, and so is a species of holocaust denier. it’s enough to declare that Weiss is presiding over the ‘disappearance’ of his people, and insinuate that he is a ‘self-hating Jew’, an intellectual kapo. but really, there’s no point in asking for evidence. as is described below, this is a psycho-emotional reaction that by definition cannot be substantiated by ‘evidence’. there isn’t any problem with the arriviste poseurs boteach and Bennett smirking for the camera at Auschwitz as if they were super bowl athletes at a strip club, or the creators of holocaust coffee table shtick. again, Weiss is the defective character for pointing out the obvious grotesqueness of these phenomena.

      • wondering jew on January 29, 2014, 5:15 pm

        I suppose it was unfair to say that shrugging is Phil’s reaction to the churban. It is Phil’s reaction today 2014, 69 years after the churban, to the prospect of the nonviolent disappearance of the Jews and their culture. If you need me to link you to that, I will. When Phil includes the disappearance of Jewish culture as shruggable like the disappearance of New Guinea languages, he is not a self hating Jew, he is an apathetic Jew and I cannot figure a more anodyne description than that. He does not deny the Churban, he denies that the Churban has any message to him as a Jew.

        It is fair for someone to say that his own Jewishness means little to him and that the dead Jews mean nothing to him, or nothing more to him than the death of the Rwandans. Unfortunately there are those who focus on the Jewishness of the victims of Hitler and this makes them insensitive to the Rwandan dead. But to ignore the Jewishness of the victims seems only relevant to me to those who ignore Jewishness. There are many on this globe who have no idea what a Jew is or what Judaism is or what Jewish history is and thus to be confronted with the fact of Hitler’s obsession and genocidal acts towards the Jews of Europe is merely barbarism and nothing specific. The specificity of history is what makes it history rather than a pithy line that can be fit in a chinese fortune cookie. If you are ignorant of the Jews or cannot stand the Jews due to your views regarding religion or regarding Zionism, I can understand that you wish to wash history away and reduce it to a fortune cookie line: Thou shalt not kill. If you succeed in undoing evil in this world because of the simplicity of your upshot of history, all the power to you. Meanwhile I am a person with a history with many associations of events and values with the idea of Jew, so the attempt to wipe out my people, which succeeded above the 50% mark in Europe, is an event that has personal relevance to me, not just as a blank person, but as a specific person, a Jew.

      • Woody Tanaka on January 29, 2014, 6:08 pm


        It is a useless reaction to suggest that because you have an emotion attachment to the event that it is okay for that attachment to be the sole or primary lens through which you view the event, especially when that attachment is only one small part of a larger whole.

        You state that “There are many on this globe who have no idea what a Jew is or what Judaism is or what Jewish history is and thus to be confronted with the fact of Hitler’s obsession and genocidal acts towards the Jews of Europe is merely barbarism and nothing specific.” That may be true, but to focus on the obsession and genocidal acts towards the Jews to the exclusion of his obsessions and genocidal acts towards non-Jews is to make the very same mistake, but in reverse. You miss the general pathology and the larger point and risk becoming an ass like the author of the article German Lefty linked to, who claimed that Catherine Ashton was a Holocaust denier and anti-semite because she specifically didn’t use the word “Jew” in describing the victims (which included as many non-Jews as Jews…)

      • SQ Debris on January 29, 2014, 6:33 pm

        I’m not getting any Prophet Hillel the Elder extrapolation from your missive. Which is surprising in that you posit an attachment to the identity qualifier “Jew.”

        If the attempt to liquidate a culture was one of the primary horrors of the second world war, then Israel is a continuation of that catastrophic behavior. The act of crushing Palestinian culture is sad evidence of success of the Nazi program’s drive to crush not only Jews as individuals and community, but as importantly, to crush the undeniably humanist Jewish culture.

        Watching the word “Jew” thrown around in a context that is solely defined by heredity, outside of culture, is a sorry thing to behold. It plays like a paraphrase of ziopimp Elie Wiesel, “A Jew cannot exist without Israel.” Jewish culture is alive and well in Berlin, and Brooklyn, and Shaker Heights. It will continue to thrive regardless of the survival of an apartheid regime between the Jordan and the sea, just as it did for thousands of years prior to the establishment of the nation state of Israel. Can linking your identity to hegemony over a specific bit of dirt really stand scrutiny as Jewish? Seriously?

      • marc b. on January 30, 2014, 9:26 am

        I am frankly having a difficult time understanding what it is you are even saying, and I don’t mean that as an insult. I’ll make the following points, which you can take as a response or as sincere if unsolicited advice:

        1. there is no unified, homogenous ‘Jewish culture’ now, and the existing pockets of the various forms of self-described Jewish culture bear little if any resemblance to the various forms of Jewish culture that existed a century ago. if I had to put words in Weiss’s mouth, I assume that that is part of his ambivalence evolving into disinterest with being ‘Jewish’. apparently he finds greater affinity with socialism and its set of values, which many secular Jews threw themselves into in the 19th-20th century, than insincere grasping at religious rituals, or the utter perversion of those same rituals. (would an educated but observant 19th century European Jew embrace the 21st century orgy of excess that are many bar mitzvahs, or would their inclination be to set the hall on fire? and would that make them ‘self-haters’?)
        2. there is no distinct, singularly important historical event, and the attempted elevation of the Holocaust onto that fictional pedestal is not history, it’s emotion, propaganda. the only people that are reducing the real history into easily digestible fortune cookie platitudes are those that insist on segregating the Holocaust from the rest of the related histories of genocides.
        3. you denigrate those who can’t accept your emotional attachment to your history, and the necessary part that your history plays in your identity, yet you’re dumfounded when others take exception to the inevitable belittling of their history and identity by your insistence on ranking atrocities. this is really just a variation on Foxman’s ‘chosenness’ argument which purportedly supports the primacy of the Holocaust as an historical tragedy. (foxman doesn’t even need to rely on the silly math equations that order atrocities, the attempts to reduce history to simple proportional relationships.) As I’ve said before, many Armenians, whose history is as closely analogous to the Jews as is possible, don’t feel an affinity with Jews on account of that shared history, but animosity because of the treatment of their historical identity by the likes of the ADL and its allies.
        4. your conflation of the cultural d/evolution of what it means to be a Jew with the physical murder of millions almost leaves me speechless. You’re clacking away on a computer, presumably in a comfortable chair, belly full, thermostat on 75, coffee in hand, and yet you’re equating yourself and similarly situated fellow Jews with someone who died, frozen stiff in a puddle of human waste in a cattle car or under the whip of some frothing sadist. I’ll admit, i’m not equipped to even begin to start peeling away the layers of that onion.
        5. the greatest threat to the continued existence of anything like a unifying strand holding together ‘the Jews’ is militant Zionism. you and yours have linked a religion, an ethnicity, a race to a political entity, and that entity isn’t just a flag or an anthem, it’s an active, destructive force. for argument’s sake, let’s assume for a moment that 50 years from now there is no viable ‘Israel’, or at least that it looks nothing like it does today, it retains no redeeming attributes even from the point of view of the majority of its Jewish citizens. let’s assume that all it is in essence is settlers, and AR-15s, and checkpoints, no nightclubs, no Amos Oz, no anonymous sex in the changing stall at the beach, just 16th century religious dogma and pronouncements on the meanness and filth of the gentile: what then?

    • Daniel Rich on January 29, 2014, 2:37 am

      @ Yonah Freedman,

      Q: Saul Bellow felt that the blow of watching movies of bulldozers push naked Jewish bodies into pits required a type of macho response that he felt was embodied in Israel and its army.

      R: That is pure emotive rubbish. You are dancing on their graves to score your points. Millions died in the camps, whatever the reason [and cruel they were too often], but those naked bodies did not have ‘I am a Jew/ess’ written on them. Stop highjacking the suffering of millions to make it your own ‘TM’ – ‘C’ guilt trip.

      • wondering jew on January 29, 2014, 5:18 pm

        Daniel Rich- Is my name that difficult to spell? My answer to you is included in my answer above.

  5. crypticvalentin on January 28, 2014, 11:48 pm

    if the Holocaust is such a sacred event in Israel, why are 1 out of 4 Holocaust survivors in Israel living far below the poverty line?..

    • K Renner on January 29, 2014, 1:30 am

      Why are holocaust survivors who sympathize with or advocate for the Palestinians getting shat on?

      Being called “self hating Jews” and things like that, if not worse, in that context.

      I thought it to be supremely disgusting to hear about people insulting Marek Edelman for his sympathy for Palestinians and the Palestinian resistance.

    • Stephen Shenfield on January 29, 2014, 6:04 am

      Their reparations pensions were stolen by operators like those in the photo.

  6. annie on January 29, 2014, 1:24 am

    the “Boteach and Bennett at Auschwitz” photo is a massive keeper. the vibe is like a fraternity party. complete w/swinging tie on bennet. grow up boys. #fail

  7. amigo on January 29, 2014, 7:31 am

    “The IDF is the revival of the Jewish people?”

    Golly, is that what the Jewish People are all about.

    Go figure.

    • seafoid on January 29, 2014, 9:35 am

      Yes. Beitar Jerusalem FC is the pinnacle of human achievement.

      The Moshiach will be along in a minute.
      Apparently he’s the 12th imam!

      • amigo on January 29, 2014, 11:44 am

        “The Moshiach will be along in a minute.”seafoid

        Thanks seafoid.I waited outside for almost an hour and He/She/It never showed.

      • seafoid on January 29, 2014, 5:27 pm

        There might be 2 of them at the same time though so watch out.

    • lysias on January 29, 2014, 12:46 pm

      On Sept. 1, 1933, immediately before the Nazi party rally, Hitler gave a speech in Nuremberg entitled Die Kunst im Dienste der Wiedergeburt des deutschen Volkes [Art in the Service of the Rebirth of the German People].

      • lysias on January 29, 2014, 5:21 pm

        I just recalled: among the titles at the beginning of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, about the Nazi party rally of September 1934, is the following: “19 Monate nach dem Beginn der deutschen Wiedergeburt [19 months after the beginning of the German rebirth]”.

  8. Real Jew on January 29, 2014, 8:05 am

    How absolutely disgraceful it is for pros israel establishment to invoke the shoal, a tragedy inflicted on the Jews by the Europeans to justify the same nazi like treatment by the idf on the Palestine people. Its bewildering to say the least that these staunchly supporters of israel don’t realize this. In addition, organizations such as the ADL who claim to combat racism of all sorts fail to mention the 20 million Russians that died during the holocaust. I suspect they want the discourse to focus solely on jewish sufferings in order to muster the greatest amount of sympathy for Jews in order to commit war crimes unchallenged. Tbey purposely disregard this reality in order to further the dream of a greater israel. Its time for all champions of peace to educate the public about these other atrocities that occurred in order to curb the holocaust industry and hopefully shed light on the disgraceful practices of the idf and expose their misuse of the memory of the holocaust

    • SQ Debris on January 29, 2014, 2:06 pm

      “I suspect they want the discourse to focus solely on jewish sufferings in order to muster the greatest amount of sympathy for Jews”

      Well put Real Jew. Zionists, in order to “red herring” the slow-mo liquidation of physical and cultural presence of Palestinians, work to sell the idea that World War II and Nazism was all about Jews. In terms of the numerical realities of the war, the death camps stand as a diabolical side show in the broader Nazi murder/oppression/theft machine. The true horror of the era lies in the very fact that the mass murder of Jews, Gay people, Roma, and unionists was but a fragment of the implosion of German culture into the abyss of fascism. The Knesset ought to visit Stalingrad/Volgograd as well if they are serious about commemorating victims of Nazism.

  9. eljay on January 29, 2014, 8:07 am

    Typical Zio-supremacist double-standards:
    – For Jews, the answer to past injustices committed against them by Germans is not justice, but military force. And a supremacist “Jewish State” in Palestine. And ethnic cleansing, occupation, land theft, colonization, oppression, destruction, torture and murder.
    – But for Palestinians, the answer to past and ON-GOING injustices committed against them by Jews is not justice or resistance or BDS, it’s negotiation and patience and recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State”.

  10. Talkback on January 29, 2014, 8:37 am

    … the Shoah is sacred …


    But propably rational in the eyes of those who are too secular to use a deity to justify their crimes against others.

    • seafoid on January 29, 2014, 9:36 am

      “… the Shoah is sacred”

      It’s defiled 24/7
      They laughed at the survivors when they made it to Israel.
      They just wanted the money.

  11. MHughes976 on January 29, 2014, 9:56 am

    I usually think of ‘Shoah’ as a term designed to avoid the suggestion of a sacred event, which is what is conveyed by the sacrifice-related term ‘Holocaust’, and to emphasise the purely secular idea of ‘disaster’, sharing the meaninglessness of earthquake and flood.

    • Shmuel on January 29, 2014, 10:40 am

      Beyond the name “Shoah”, I see clear theological undertones in Gantz’ ostensibly secular vision. He offers both a prescription against future holocausts (the IDF would hardly be of use in a past event), and a kind of “tikun” (mystical/spiritual rectification) for past sins. Since he sees Jewish weakness as the cause of the Holocaust (in a sense, reducing the role of the actual perpetrators), the “answer” must lie in Jewish strength.

      I find this very reminiscent of the approach taken by some Haredi thinkers to the Holocaust, as the result of Jewish sin (spiritual weakness — particularly Haskalah, Reform, assimilation, Zionism, etc.), with the Nazis serving — like the Assyrians — as “the rod of God’s anger” (again reducing the role of the perpetrators, but without denying their free will). The “answer” to the Holocaust, both for future survival/redemption and as a “tikun” is Jewish devotion, repentance, observance and faith (spiritual strength).

  12. jayn0t on January 29, 2014, 11:14 am

    Blumenthal: “these crude racists are such an affront.” He prefers them to be not so crude?

  13. pabelmont on January 29, 2014, 12:42 pm

    The Teachers tell us that the “lesson” of the Holocaust — FOR JEWS — has been boiled down to something very, very simple: There are killers and killed, and it is better, henceforward (and of course also necessary), to be the Killer rather than the Killed. Therefore, the Jewish People has elected (so we say, we who are the Teachers of The Lesson of The Holocaust) to become the IDF, The Killers. And if We (The IDF) decide that you are our enemy, then we have right to kill you because we are The Killers.

    Well, at least it is simple. Gotta give it that!

    And it really simplifies Judaism, too. None of that complexity, and who can understand why so many people who claim to be Jews still persist in studying Torah and Talmud. That’s so, so 19th century.

  14. Woody Tanaka on January 29, 2014, 2:18 pm

    “Boteach mentions the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust and at Auschwitz. Millions of others were also killed, but there’s no recognition of that in his reports.”

    Of course it wasn’t. If it were, he would have to face the enormouse error in the notion that “The IDF is the Jewish people’s answer to the Holocaust.”

    Because if he really, truly understood the import of the millions and millions of non-Jews murdered in the Holocaust, he would understand that the lesson to be taken from the even is one that has to consider and do justice to those millions and millions of non-Jews. And perhaps he would have to realize that the only valid and viable “lesson” from the Holocaust (if there can be such a thing) isn’t “make sure Jews can kill before they can be killed” but “make sure that justice is provided to everyone.” Because the central, core sin committed in the Holocaust, is the notion that one person or group of people can decide that someone else does not have rights that need to be respected.

  15. mcohen on January 29, 2014, 2:57 pm

    why cannot the monds write decent articles like this one.

    • Woody Tanaka on January 29, 2014, 5:13 pm

      Decent? You’re mad. The article is pitiful victimization. It’s main “argument” is nothing but warmed over, fully rebutted, nonsense, peppered with vile slanders and insults against the allied governments and all of the soldiers, sailor and airmen who fought the war. And the comparison to the Monuments Men is so obtuse as to be obscene. The work of the Monuments Men was a cakewalk compared to the near impossiblity of saving Europe’s Jews (the non-Jews who died in the Holocaust?? Rafeal Medoff and Tablet magazine apparently doesn’t give a shit about them).

      • marc b. on January 30, 2014, 5:43 pm

        6,000,000 dead while ______________ looked on; never again.

        the history of Europe from 1933 to 1948 in two clauses. who’s the reductionist?

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