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Against Holocaust Denial

Photo source Ben Tilley | CC BY 2.0

Recently I read an “anti-Zionist” Internet rant posted by a person who questioned the historical accuracy of the well-known and heavily documented fact that many millions of Jewish people were genocidally murdered by the German Nazi Third Reich.

The rant-maker was on solid empirical and moral ground in denouncing the despicable behavior of the United States-backed Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) towards Palestinian people in the Israeli-Occupied Territories and particularly in Gaza. Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians – recently including the open sniper-slaughter of unarmed protesters on Israel-Gaza border – is one of the most egregious human rights atrocities of our time.  It’s hard to fathom the murderous immorality of how Israel molests the people trapped in the open-air prison that is Gaza and how Israel mistreats the Palestinians more broadly.

But the anti-Israel Internet poster made a critical mistake by combining his moral outrage at Israel’s sickening offences against the Palestinians with denial of the Nazis’ ghastly campaign to eradicate European Jewry. The two crimes are intimately bound up and inseparably linked with each other. Israel’s leaders and defenders have made little effort to hide their belief that “the Jewish state” is entitled by the Nazi experience to do whatever Israel believes it must to make sure it Never Happens Again.  If Israel thinks that means brutally uprooting, displacing, terrorizing, subjugating, bombing, torturing, oppressing and otherwise harming Arabs to “guarantee the safety of the Jewish people,” so be it.

Forget the question of whether Israel’s unconscionable Palestinian policies and practices really work to protect Jewish people within and outside Israel.  The point is that the authentic historical horror of the highly organized and largely industrialized Nazi effort to eradicate European Jewry has given Israel a lethal, blank-check sense of entitlement to commit their own different but hideous crimes against Arab and Muslim humanity in the Middle East. The Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims who have been murdered, maimed, and otherwise abused and oppressed by Israel have also been victims (once or twice removed) of German fascism and European anti-Semitism.   Between nations and ethnocultural groups as within families, victimization and the intimately related sense of entitlement that fuels and justifies victimization recycles and repeats across generations. It’s a vicious, self-fulfilling circle wherein vctims become victimizers.

“Choose your enemies carefully,” an old proverb counsels, “for you shall become like them.” The Jewish pioneers of the Israeli settler and apartheid state did not choose for themselves and their ethnoreligious cohorts to face extermination by spiritually dead Nazis. Contrary to the unfortunate anti-Semitic comments of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (who wrote a doctoral thesis at Moscow University that cited the writings of Holocaust-deniers to question the number of Jews killed by the Nazis) earlier this week, moreover, European Jews did not “cause the Holocaust” with bad “social behavior.”  Sadly, however, the Holocaust is a big part of how and why Israel has behaved and continues to act like a spiritually dead fascist state (behavior that has included denying the real number of Arabs it has displaced and killed) towards the Arab people it uprooted and separated to build its Never Again garrison state in the Holy Land.

Acknowledging the reality of the Nazi Holocaust does not mean that one supports Israel’s reprehensible behavior towards its subjects and neighbors.  But any serious opponent of that criminal behavior should want to understand what they wish to effectively fight and undo. Nazi Holocaust denial and Jewish victim-blaming only deepen Israel’s commitment towards Nazi-like conduct to those whose humanity it denies.

The Nazi genocide is not the only Holocaust in world history, of course.  Other Holocausts and large-scale atrocities include the eradication of untold millions of indigenous people in the “Americas” by European predator-settlers, the mass murderous enslavement and torture of many millions of Africans in the “Americas,” the Belgian genocide in the Congo, the Turkish Armenian genocide, Indonesia’s U.S.-approved rape of the East Timorese, the U.S.-enabled Rwandan genocide, the long US rape of Iraq (1991 to present), the current U.S.-backed rapes of the Sudan, Congo, and Yemen, the U.S.-fueled Syrian War, and the terrible plight of the Rohingya in U.S.-backed “Buddhist” Myanmar.

The U.S. today is homeland and headquarters of a geocidal crime that threatens to make past genocide perpetrators look like small-time criminals by comparison: the fossil-fueled extermination of life on Earth. The Republican Party– and petroleum and coal corporation-led movement to turn the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber is advancing what could be the mother of all Holocausts – the destruction of organized human life and perhaps homo sapiensitself along with countless other species.

This great capital-generated crime-in-the-making reminds me of something written in 1848 by a thirty-year old German ethnocultural Jew and atheist named Karl Marx, whose 200th birthday will be celebrated this Saturday:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes(emphasis added).”

Common ruin – rooted in capital’s never ending, profit- and accumulation-addicted ruination of the commons– indeed.

“Freedom,” Marx wrote near the end of the draft third volume of Capital, “can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favorable to, and worthy of, their human nature” (Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 3: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole [New York: International, 1976, p. 820], emphasis added).  How haunting those words sound today, with the capitalogenic climate crisis speeding us like a runaway train towards 500 carbon parts per million (so long, Antarctic ice sheets) by 2050 if not much sooner.

“The working men,” Marx wrote in 1848, “have no country.”  Neither does livable ecology, which requires the cross-national abolition of the profits system with (preferably) or without the proletariat  finally validating the Old Mole’s prophecy that it would emerge as the “gravedigger” of the bourgeoisie. “The uncomfortable truth,” Istvan Meszaros rightly argued 17 years ago, “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.”  It’s eco-socialism or mere barbarism if we’re lucky at this stage of capitalist and state-sponsored ecocide. Anything less is Holocaust Denial.

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Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

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