Bibi’s Use of Holocaust Memory: Not Just Wrong, An Obscenity

A slightly edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem

April 28 is the day on which Jews all around the world commemorate the Holocaust. It’s an important day, a somber time for obvious reasons. One would think it would be treated with respect, especially by self-defined “Jewish leaders.” And yet, it comes as no surprise that at least one such leader, the Prime Minister of Israel, would cynically use the memory of the Holocaust to further a political agenda that presses for war and uses the Holocaust memory to further the goal of ongoing occupation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made what was probably the clearest statement of sympathy for the history of Jewish suffering in World War II ever by a Palestinian leader. He called it “…”the most heinous crime against humanity in modern history.” Abbas continued by offering his sympathy to the “families of the victims and the innocent people who were killed by the Nazis including the Jews and others.” That is a decidedly clear statement, acknowledging the Jews specifically, but also not forgetting that nearly an equal number of non-Jews were killed in the Nazi camps.

Many Jews around the world welcomed Abbas’ statement, as well we should. But Netanyahu used the opportunity to declare once again that “rather than releasing declarations aimed at soothing international public opinion, he must choose between Hamas and true peace.” Bibi dismissed Abbas’ statement as a public relations move. Continue reading

Nationalist Extremism: The Real Threat to Israel

An edited version of this article appeared first at LobeLog.

They were dueling op-eds, one in the New York Times and the other in the Jewish communal magazine, Tablet. The question being

Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006 Photo by Rabih/Public Domain

Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006
Photo by Rabih/Public Domain

bandied between them was whether Israel is becoming a theocracy. Not surprisingly, both pieces missed the mark. It’s not theocracy but unbridled nationalism that is the threat in Israel.

The Times piece was authored by Abbas Milani, who heads the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University and Israel Waismel-Manor, a lecturer at Haifa University who is currently a visiting associate professor of Political Science at Stanford. Their thesis is that Iran and Israel are moving in opposite directions on a democratic-theocratic scale, and that they might at some point in the future pass each other. Milani and Waismel-Manor are certainly correct about the strengthening forces of secularism and democracy in Iran, along with a good dose of disillusionment and frustration with the revolutionary, Islamic government that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ushered in thirty-five years ago. But on Israel, they miss the mark by a pretty wide margin.

Waismel-Manor and MIlani posit that the thirty seats currently held in Israel’s Knesset by religious parties shows growing religious influence on Israeli policies. But, as Yair Rosenberg at Tablet correctly points out, not all the religious parties have the same attitude about separation of religion and the state. Where Rosenberg, unsurprisingly, goes way off course is his complete eliding of the fact that the threat is not Israel’s tilt toward religion, but it’s increasingly radical shift toward right-wing policies, which are often severely discriminatory and militant. Continue reading