Report: What’s with teaching Holocaust?

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

There have been rumours (officially denied) about the incorporation of the Holocaust into Maldivian school curricula. This rumour, in and of itself, lead many to protest and speak out. Why is it, some ask, that such decisions are made in secret, without any consultation with the people? It would be ironic for those who claim to be pioneers of democracy in this tiny island nation. However, since this has been denied as a rumour, another question remains: were these protesters’ concerns well-founded? 

An issue that evokes more like-minded concern and skepticism is the involvement of the State of Israel in all of this. What interest do they have in teaching us the Holocaust?

Some supporters of the religious right-wing, the Adhaalath Party, which has been proclaimed by some as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement of Egypt, have equated the decision to teaching children Jewish theology. Although not quite accurate, they aren’t too far away from the point.

I personally do not know what the State of Israel has to gain from teaching the Holocaust to schoolchildren who’ve never been to and possibly who will never visit Israel.

The second World War saw Nazi Germany implement the systematic elimination of gypsies, Poles, Slavs, Jews, Roman Catholics, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses from all the regions it controlled. They did so by setting up concentration camps to which people would be transported, en masse, either to be executed in the gas ovens, or to be worked to death. This is what would come to be known as the Holocaust. The Holocaust is a sensitive issue and it something held dear to Jewry.

The historian Tony Judd; himself Jewish; remarked that the modern Jew often had two points in space and time to define their identities. In space, they would have Israel: a “safe haven” to escape to in case of persection, in time: the Holocaust, regardless of whether or not they had ever been to Auschwitz, let alone survived or descended from those who had survived.

It is therefore no surprise that the Holocaust and its gravity would be built up in the mind of the Jew to near-mythical proportions. In the middle of the century, there turned up a viewpoint that the Holocaust itself was “unique”. That never in human history had anything so terrible as the Holocaust had occured. This view is often accepted, espcially by the media, as uncontested; and most public gentiles who reference the Holocaust often add in a little remark (“the terrible nightmare that was the Holocaust”, etc.).

The validity of this view is very much in question. And it is not the sort of question, in the words of the politicial scientist Norman Finkelstein, one would even consider. How could one objectively compare the suffering of a child at Auschwitz with the suffering of a child during the My Lai massacre? It’s not possible, nor should it sit well with one’s moral sensibilities.

The Israeli documentarian Yoav Shamir explored the Holocaust in the mind of the modern Jew in his film Defamation. In one scene, in which he had followed the president of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham “Abe” Foxman, to the Ukraine: we have a short scene in which he’s lecturing an Ukrainian official regarding the uniqueness of the Holocaust. It seems that the Ukrainian president made a remark about a certain famine being “our Holocaust”, and this caused Abe Foxman (and much of the Jewish community by extension?) much pain and distress.

The Holocaust seems to have an almost divine status for the secular Jew; it defines him, and to deny the Holocaust would be to spurn the Jew. Such was the fate of the British historian David Irving, a Holocaust-denier whose freedom to speak was abruptly interrupted when he was jailed for a year after he’d written literature questioning the facts regarding the Holocaust. He was charged for promoting racial hatred.

The jump between questioning the facts of the Holocaust and a seething hate of people of Jewish descent is a big one. One that would require some preparation and emotional baggage. If Mr Irving were a frothing, bald, nose-ringed sociopath marching down the street waving a Nazi flag, I wouldn’t have bothered. But he’s not, he’s a historian who, despite the invalidity of his claims, has more of a right to question the Holocaust than a layman such as Abe Foxman.

But this was a gentile court that sentenced Mr Irving. What gives? Though the German government hopes to make amends and to this day continues to pay an annual sum of money to Holocaust survivors around the world, I cannot see the reason why the rest of the world are so sympathetic to the Jewish plight. Specifically, sympathetic to the suffering of the Jews while completely ignorant of or apathetic towards the Rwandan genocide, Chechnya, the Srebrenica massacre, and even the atrocities committed by Israel.

The Israeli journalist Uri Avenery claimed that for the most succesful ethnic minority in the world: their constant demonizing of individuals as anti-Semites is shameful.

The mainstream media are adamant that any criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism. Any questioning of the facts of the Holocaust is tantamount to anti-Semitism. It is true that there’ve been many arguments made by the Israeli propaganda machine that Hamas’ rocket fire and terrorist acts keep continuing to this day because “those Arabs” just can’t stand to live side by side with “peace-loving Jewish neighbours”.

Any opposing views are, obviously, from Nazi-lovin’ anti-Semites.

Could the jump from questioning the facts of the Holocaust to racial hatred have come from a gentile fear of being seen as anti-Semites? Nazis in disguise? I have no real answer for this.

So the Holocaust has become, as the Adhaalath party writer has said, part of Hebrew theology. It defines the secular Jew, and he loves the Holocaust with a love that seems almost religious. One could incur the wrath of Jewry by mocking the Holocaust, yet can go unscathed by blaspheming Moses (peace be upon him), the Torah, or even God.

In my personal opinion, Maldivian schoolchildren have some idea about the Holocaust, it’s nothing new to them. In fact, the Holocaust is probably taught to a great depth in secondary school arts streams. So teaching it isn’t entirely a problem par se. But to teach the Holocaust yet to ignore the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis each and every day is inhumane. The Holocaust has long been a tool for the Zionist war machine to humiliate and torture a population of 1 million people for forty years. The Holocaust was always invoked in their justifications for the massacres. Anti-Semitism and Nazism, along with that.

Yet, though the Warsaw Ghetto is no longer standing; we have the West Bank Barrier, and we have Gaza. I have no shame in comparing the treatment of the Palestinian Arabs to the Nazi treatment of Jews in Europe because I do not believe that the Holocaust was unique. It was a great tragedy, but it was not unique. The State of Israel and is proof enough.

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