It’s been a slow week here in the Midwest. Our February 23 vigil took place as usual with seven members of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends in attendance. However, other than that bit of street activism, we can only report that three members of JWPF read and discussed “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education”
This master’s thesis by Canadian Jennifer Peto caused quite a stir in the Toronto Jewish community and included hours of public debate and even a rebuke by the Ontario legislature. The thesis showed how Holocaust education – particularly through the March of the Living (a tour for Jewish students) and the March of Remembrance and Hope (a tour for non-Jewish students) – is designed to produce support for the State of Israel. Draping the shoulders of Jewish students with Israeli flags as they march through Auschwitz is one technique of indoctrination Peto describes.
We felt the paper went far in exposing how a historical event is being used to promote positive feelings and public support for the Jewish state, but also agreed with Jay Knott in his assessment that the paper did not go far enough. Peto argues that Zionism can only be challenged “through anti-racist, anti-imperialist theory and activism”, while Knott argues the exact opposite:
I want to challenge her and the left in general to ask why this approach was so effective in the case of South Africa, and so ineffective against Israel. She has nothing to say about ‘the chosen people’ and the festivals which celebrate massacres of gentiles – she makes no attempt to answer the question “is Zionism an expression of Judaism”? She explicitly says, “Jews of European descent now enjoy white privilege,” which implies a) they didn’t used to enjoy privilege at all, and b) the privilege they now enjoy is not specifically Jewish. She compares Canada’s history of ethnic cleansing with Israel’s. This is not how to undermine Zionism
Holocaust Denial – A Working Definition
The Holocaust itself is yet another elephant in the room – alongside Israel’s claimed legitimacy as a Jewish state – and begs to be thoroughly deconstructed and discussed, if only to ensure that the crimes and mistakes of the past are not repeated. Yet it appears this is one historical topic that cannot be treated as history. Indeed some Holocaust revisionists have been jailed (fourteen countries forbid discussions outside the accepted narrative of events in Europe from 1939- 1945) for publishing their research into the matter, and who knows how many others are cowed into silence. Our discussion led us to look towards Dan McGowan’s published letter to the editor of his Geneva, NY newspaper for what Holocaust “denial” is, and what it isn’t. According to our friend, Professor Emeritus of Hobart and Smith College and sometimes vigiler, Dan writes:
[revisionists] arguments boil down to three simple contentions:
1. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was intended to be ethnic cleansing, not extermination.
2. There were no homicidal gas chambers used by the Third Reich.
3. There were fewer than 6 million Jews killed of the 55 million who died in WWII.
We are aware that mainstream references to the Holocaust generally serve to undergird support for the Jewish state, and more importantly they vilify and victimize those, like Dan, who dare cross the line. But the constant exposure – in film, television and print media – of this one-sided historical event, begs to be looked at with greater scrutiny and understanding. Questions like “Why?” need to be asked and soberly discussed. We welcome the discussion.
“Israel” – Not good for the Jews
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends