Until recently, Holocaust memorials were almost exclusively sponsored by Jews mourning murdered kinsmen. Today, many democratic governments have transformed Holocaust commemoration into an educational vehicle to demonstrate the monstrous consequences of unbridled racism and antisemitism. The UK is one of a number of western countries that have an annual Holocaust Commemoration Day.
However, today’s Israel bashers have stooped to the depths of distorting the genocidal murder of the Jews as a vehicle to demonise the descendents of the victims.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad may have taken Holocaust denial to new depths and in Muslim countries generally it may have become a primary component of antisemitic delegitimisation of Israel, but in western nations it no longer occupies a major role.
Prosecution of Holocaust deniers in democratic countries transforms them into martyrs and is thus counterproductive. In fact, deniers are now usually considered cranks or charlatans; more sophisticated antisemites steer clear of outright denial.
Even more bizarrely, Islamic countries that actively promote Holocaust denial have begun citing the criminalisation of Holocaust denial to justify criminal proceedings against any critique of Islam, Islamic practice or Sharia Law. Resolutions to this effect have already been passed by the United Nations General Assembly.
Today, a more potent challenge to the Jewish people has emerged in the trivialisation, distortion and inversion of the Holocaust. The first systematic study of this phenomenon is contained in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s recent book, The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses.
Dr Gerstenfeld describes the efforts of some European nations to present themselves as victims of Nazi persecution in order to deflect attention from the role of their own citizens who collaborated with the Nazis or participated directly in the mass murder of Jews. For example, until the “Waldheim Affair”, Austria was notorious for its insistence that it was a victim rather than an accessory, suppressing the fact that the majority of Austrians had been enthusiastic Nazi collaborators.
Baltic countries are now applying moral equivalency between Nazi genocidal policies and Soviet crimes in order to cover up the fact that their own Nazi collaborators and murderers of Jews were never brought to justice.
The most obscene – and growing – of these current trends is that which equates Israelis – descendants of the victims – with Nazis.
This had its genesis in the Soviet-sponsored UN resolution of 35 years ago equating Zionism with racism. It has now been finessed and widened under the direction of Arab and other anti-Israeli agitators. The evil mantra reiterated is that “the victims have become the perpetrators”. In some countries, Holocaust Remembrance Day has even broadened to commemorate the “genocide of the Palestinian people”.
That these attempts to demonise Israelis as Nazis and accuse them of having committed war crimes against the Palestinians have succeeded is evidenced by the threat to issue arrest warrants against visiting Israeli political and military leaders in Britain and elsewhere.
The Nazis’ arch-propagandist Joseph Goebbels mastered the technique of repeating a lie ad nauseam until it was accepted as truth by the masses. Today, the same technique is being employed in this, the greatest of all contemporary defamations of the Jewish people.
This column was originally published in the Jewish Chronicle (UK)