The end of Jewish & Muslim victimology?They say that history is always written by the victors. In the case of the Nazi slaughter of millions of Jews, Slavs, homosexuals and others, the only victors were the worst manifestations of humanity.
The genocidal actions of Hitler and his henchmen were pure evil. Some choose to deny the existence or extent of excesses such as the slaughter of Jews and others in the Nazi gas chambers. These people are living in fantasy land.
Denial of the Holocaust causes deep pain to its surviving victims and their families. Just as cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist caused deep offence to even the most moderate (whatever that term means) Muslims across the globe.
Both involve denying historical facts, or at least displaying complete disdain for history.
In recent times, we have seen some Muslims reacting to the dozen cartoons in a manner contrary to the teachings of the very man whose honour they seek to defend. Their idea of displaying their understandable hurt and frustration is violence, destruction of property and complete disrespect and disdain for the rules and conventions of domestic and international law, let alone the sacred law of Islam.
Some may be pained by reading this, but we simply cannot deny it. Let's call a spade a spade. Even the most radical Jewish responses to the denial of the Holocaust have been much more restrained and dignified than extreme Muslim reactions to the Danish cartoons.
However, even Jewish activists and writers who have spent the best years of their life opposing the likes of David Irving and other “revisionist” historians agree that sending him to jail for 3 years is not the answer.
Irving faced an Austrian court in response to a warrant arising from a speech he gave in 1989. In that speech, Irving claimed that there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The 67 year old historian has been sentenced to 3 years jail after pleading guilty to the crime of denying the holocaust of European Jews. Irving, who speaks fluent German, told the court that he has now changed his views about the Holocaust, the extent of the massacre and Hitler’s knowledge of its taking place.
The sentence has led to mixed reactions from Jewish quarters. Some have played the race card, using politically correct language to applaud the sentence. BBC World on 20 February 2006 quoted Karen Pollock of the UK’s Holocaust Educational Trust supporting the sentence as an adequate punishment for “anti-Semitism dressed up as intellectual debate”.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Centre claimed the sentence served as “a direct challenge to the Iranian regime’s embrace of Holocaust denial”. Exactly how the Iranian President’s comments are affected by the sentencing of a British historian in Austria is unclear.
Perhaps the most measured response was from academic, Dr Deborah Lipstadt who spent years exposing the erroneous nature of Irving’s views. She expressed serious concerns about jailing Irving.
“I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don't believe in winning battles via censorship... The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth.”
Some Muslims have seen the need to embrace Irving. They argue that the Holocaust is used as a rhetorical tool to support the state of Israel and repress criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in both Israel and Palestine.
Of course, blind supporters of Israel (mostly living outside Israel and refusing to emigrate and settle there) use all sorts of rhetorical tools to deny anyone the chance to criticise Israel even mildly. Such activists are doing themselves and their cause disservice and are leaving themselves open to criticism for showing greater devotion to Israel than their host nation.
The mere fact that some Zionist extremists use the Holocaust as a rhetorical tool should not in itself lead us to deny its veracity. The fact is that it did happen, and that there is ample evidence for it happening.
If some Zionist activists use Holocaust guilt to stifle free political debate, this reflects more on their inability to rationally defend Israeli aggression than on Israel's critics. Muslims themselves have been victims of slaughter. Perhaps the most blatant example of this was the massacres of millions of Muslims by the Mongols.
Yet within a generation of the slaughter, the Mongols themselves adopted Islam. Muslims were able to capture the hearts of the Mongols by virtue of their conduct and their faith. Muslims didn’t bludgeon the Mongols with emotional missiles of guilt.
In the long term, the lure of Holocaust victimology will wear thin. People will become tired of always being told that criticism of Israel is forbidden. Already we are seeing this phenomenon even within Jewish circles.
Some Muslim terrorists justify their violent conduct with references to past sufferings. Their victimology is now wearing thin even in Muslim circles. Similarly, supporters of Israel will need to find a rhetorical tool other than Holocaust victimhood to garner the goodwill of those neutral to the Israel/Palestine dispute. Past victimhood is no excuse for present exploitation.
© Irfan Yusuf 2006