Anti-Semitism and Holocaust

The Two Forms Of Denial
by Rabbi Aharon Dov Halperin 
May 7, '00 / Iyar 2, 5760

In This Article:
1. Two Forms of Denial
2. Jewish Self-Awareness
3. Experiment in Self-Delusion
4. Attitudes
5. Brave Critics
6. They Know

In honor of [this week's] annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, I would like to discuss a topic that has been much in the news of late: Holocaust-denial. There are two types: The classic brand of Holocaust-denial, David Irving-style, consists of a negation of the actual facts. So, for example, Irving claims that the number 6,000,000 is exaggerated, that Jews were not gassed, and the like. A second, more subtle form of Holocaust-denial involves a deliberately warped interpretation of the philosophy and goals of the Nazi killing machine. Unfortunately, here in modern-day Israel, many of our own people are sadly engaging in this second form of Holocaust denial.

Shortly after the Shoah, all self-aware Jews had internalized the basic message of what transpired, and understood the meaning of the verse: "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way out of Egypt..." Hitler was viewed by the Jew as the embodiment of evil, not because of his racism or fascism, but because of his specific conception of the Jewish people, his systematic plan to exterminate our nation. Although he was indeed a racist, ultra-nationalist and fascist, such epithets were secondary for the Jew back then. Hitler was, pure and simple, an anti-Semitic monster, the arch-enemy of the Jewish people. For the thinking Jew, Hitler was a natural successor to Pharaoh, Agag the King of Amalek, and Haman. The Shoah just confirmed the rabbinic principle that "Esav hates Yaakov." An eternal hatred for an eternal people.

In recent years, however, this view has been changing, especially here in Israel. The enlightened, secular Israeli left has slowly but surely begun to reduce the Holocaust to a universal crime against humanity, with the Jew a mere incidental victim. A study of modern Israeli literature, newspaper articles, and academic studies bears out this trend. A prime offender is our own Education Ministry, whose curricular materials smack of this message. Thus, the Shoah - the Nazis' unparalleled program to exterminate the Jewish people- is billed as just another lesson in the "evils of racism."

I am a seventh-generation Israeli. None of my immediate family was murdered in the Holocaust. As a child, though, I became preoccupied with the topic of the Shoah. There's practically no Shoah-related book I haven't read or a radio program that has eluded me. Over the years, I have always been bothered by the criticism, often expressed by native "Sabra" Israelis, that the six million martyrs went to the gas chambers like "sheep to the slaughter," without resisting.

This condescending view is even reflected in the name chosen to mark the day: "Yom HaShoah V'Hagevurah," which, roughly translated, means: "Holocaust and Bravery Remembrance Day." Many Israelis have come to understand this "bravery" as a reference to the courage of those who physically fought the Nazis, while virtually ignoring the spiritual heroism of those who preserved their Divine image in the face of the harshest conditions imaginable. This narrow view is troubling enough. What is more disturbing is the deliberate separation of the term "Holocaust" from "bravery" - a distinction which suggests that the Shoah claimed two types of victims: the passive "sheep" on the one hand, and Jews like the Warsaw Ghetto fighters, on the other.

This year, I am calling on all those "brave" Sabras and Zionists who harbor the above perception - to stand up and ask for forgiveness from the six million. Even if it can be claimed that many mistakenly believed the German "line" that the trains were headed to "work" and not "death" camps, it is man's nature to resist the bitter truth until the inevitable takes place. At any rate, even those Jews who physically fought back had little hope of prevailing over the monstrous German killing machine.

Where are all of our "brave" Zionist critics today? Those who lambasted the martyrs for going like sheep to the slaughter?

They are leading us along a path of blind faith - not faith in the good intentions of the Nazis, but faith in the good intentions of Mubarak, of Arafat, and of Assad. In sharp contrast to European Jewry, our brave Zionist generals have, over the past decade, taken the initiative (no one is forcing them!) of guiding the Jewish state to a potential self-induced disaster. Far from being the virtually helpless Jews of Europe, Israel's modern-day leaders head an independent Jewish state with a sophisticated, modern army. It is this very leadership, however, that ensures that Israeli Jews keep their eyes closed, that they believe uncritically in the promise of the "Peace Process."

To be fair, the majority of Israelis are not really to blame; they probably just don't understand the situation. After all, modern-day Israel is quite "free" of a free press. As in Stalinist Russia or the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, modern-day Israel is dominated by a media engaged in a full-time campaign of brainwashing. Except for Haggai Huberman and HaTzofeh, or Arutz-Sheva, for instance, Israelis are rarely exposed to factual reporting. Little mention is made of the fact that in today's Arab press, "an atmosphere of peace" is completely undetectable. Sheltered Israelis are also ignorant of the literature and educational materials taught in Arab schools, materials that unambiguously reflect the Arab world's virulent hatred of Israel and its continued, fervent desire to ensure our destruction.

Our leaders - those raised in a state that brought the promise of a new, bolder, aggressive, Israeli Jew, unencumbered by European, exile-like passivity - are not ignorant! Far from it: our leaders are privy to ongoing reports on what is going on in Arab countries, from the educational system, to the media, to the dictators that run the sundry regimes. Our leaders know full well that our "peace partner," Arafat, has not abandoned his "Jihad" rhetoric. How, then, can Israel's brave leaders agree to transfer Jerusalem-area villages to the PLO? Knowing Assad, how can Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, and company agree to abandon the Golan, along with a plan for the U.S. to re-vamp the dilapidated Syrian military - placing millions of Jews in a situation that even the political "dove" Abba Eban called "Auschwitz Borders?"

The traditional answer: Arafat, Mubarak, and Assad may, superficially seem to be our enemies, but in the depths of their hearts, they truly wish to live with us in peace. Hosni Mubarak hasn't labored for years to strip Israel of its nuclear defense arsenal because he is our enemy! He is really worried about our environment! And Yasser Arafat, who calls The Engineer, the murderer Yichye Ayash, a 'brave martyr,' is simply 'hiding his true, conciliatory feelings.' The same goes for Assad, who, if we only let him wade in the Kinneret, would be more than happy to allow his true "peaceful" colors to show.

And so I call on our brave leadership, prime examples of the bolder, enlightened, Israeli Jew - please, please, this year ask forgiveness from those Jewish martyrs who, you claim, "went like sheep to the slaughter."

Rabbi Aharon Dov Halperin edits the weekly Israeli magazine Kfar Chabad and hosts a show on Arutz Sheva's Hebrew radio channel.

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