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Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood

Thursday, September 1, 2016

This work focuses on the Holocaust as the raison d’etre of the State of Israel. It discusses Holocaust survivors, Israel’s wars with her neighbors as a thwarting of a new Holocaust, the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt, and much more. It also emphasizes Jews who cooperated with the Nazis, and that is what I elaborate in my review. Instead of limiting myself to the contents of this book, I also relate its ideas to the collaboration of other peoples with the Nazis.


     
   
4.0 out of 5 stars  This work focuses on the Holocaust as the raison d’etre of the State of Israel. It discusses Holocaust survivors, Israel’s wars with her neighbors as a thwarting of a new Holocaust, the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt, and much more. It also emphasizes Jews who cooperated with the Nazis, and that is what I elaborate in my review. Instead of limiting myself to the contents of this book, I also relate its ideas to the collaboration of other peoples with the Nazis.

Author Idith Zertal emphasizes the implication of the connection between Zionism and the Holocaust. For instance, Marek Edelman, until recently, had largely been ignored by Israelis, as he was not a Zionist and because he had stayed behind in Poland. (p. 35). In addition, Hannah Arendt, following the unwelcome criticism of Jewish conduct in her EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM, “was never again invited by an Israeli academic institution to have her say after the publication of her book, either on the book or on any other subject.” (p. 131). Only after the passage of forty years was her book translated into Hebrew. (p. 131).

THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING (1943), WHILE SYMBOLIC, SHOULD NOT BE OVER-HYPED

Some recent media portrayals of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising have included statements to the effect that the Warsaw Jews resisted the Nazis longer than did the entire Polish Army in 1939. Such a comparison is patently ridiculous.

In contrast, author Zertal keeps the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in proper perspective. She writes, (quote) In purely military terms, the Warsaw ghetto uprising [sic] was not a major operation. It made no contribution towards shortening the war or vanquishing Nazism. It did not save Jewish lives and made no real difference in the process of systematic murder of the Jews of Europe…There are various estimates by survivors of the uprising, such as Antek Zuckerman, Israel Gutman, and Marek Edelman, which range from 220 fighters (Edelman) to 500 (Zuckerman). (unquote)(p. 27).

THEMES PERTAINING TO JEWISH SERVICE TO THE NAZIS AGAINST OTHER JEWS

The issues raised in this book ask whether the collaborator who is a member of the victim group is truly a collaborator, and when and if collaboration can be excused because of the desperation of the situation, the actual or perceived goal of lessening the gravity of the situation, the breakdown in normal considerations of right and wrong, the lack of freedom to make independent choices, etc. However, the problem with such reasoning is that it can also be applied to the Nazi collaboration of other peoples (e g, eastern Europeans). Either that, or the Jews and the Holocaust are so “special” and so “different” that one set of “rules” apply to Jews cooperating with the Nazis, and another set of “rules” apply to everyone else who cooperated with the Nazis. For more on all this, please click on, and read my detailed reviews, of Jewish Honor Courts: Revenge, Retribution, and Reconciliation in Europe and Israel after the Holocaust and International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law (The Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law).

EXCULPATORY REASONING AS PER JEWISH-NAZI COLLABORATION

The Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, was passed by the Knesset in 1950. (p. 60). Zertal suggests that it came to be because Holocaust survivors demanded that Jewish collaborators be brought to justice (p. 62), and in order to appease Israeli disgust at Jewish conduct during the Holocaust. (p. 65).

How serious was this effort? A series of trials took place in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, but in NO CASE was a Jewish defendant found guilty of the death of a single person. (p. 67). Prison sentences, when administered, were perfunctory. (p. 69). By the time of the Eichmann trial, the Holocaust was reckoned so unprecedented that Jewish conduct was [arguably conveniently] deemed impossible to judge. (p. 77).

Can Jewish conduct summarily be excused simply because the defendants are Jews, and “all Jews were victims of the Nazis”? The brutal conduct of defendant Yehezkel Anigster, the Chief Kapo at two Silesian labor camps in 1943-1944, is instructive. Zertal asks, (quote) Were the only alternatives to serve the Nazis or face death, to subjugate fellow prisoners or face punitive action? Did they accept dubious positions to forestall potentially worse situation? In Anigster’s case, prosecution witnesses, in describing the defendant’s sadism, said there was no external pressure for the defendant’s beatings, since in most cases the Germans were not present. Moreover, several witnesses claimed that no prisoner was forced to accept the position of kapo or Chief Kapo, and that “there were some who refused and were not punished.” (unquote)(pp. 72-73).

COMPLICITY IN THE HOLOCAUST. JEWS “NOT GUILTY”? THEN POLES ALSO “NOT GUILTY”

Although Zertal does not mention Poles or Jedwabne, the decision of Judge Yosef Lamm, in the aforementioned Anigster case, has a direct bearing on accusations related to so-called “complicity in the Holocaust”.

Chief Kapo Yehezkel Anigster was charged not only with brutal treatment of Jewish inmates, but also of contributing to their “alarming death rate”. (p. 71). However, Judge Yosef Lamm declared that Anigster “had not intended to exterminate the civilian population” and had “‘made it easier for the Nazis to execute their plan to annihilate the Jewish people, thereby playing a terrible and heinous role, but with intentions utterly different from those of the Nazis’, he [Anigster] was merely a Nazi ‘accomplice’. Lamm adjudged that in no way could Anigster be regarded as guilty of crimes against humanity.” (p. 74).

To apply the foregoing reasoning beyond its narrow Judeocentric context, let us consider the Poles and Jedwabne. Let us suppose that some ethnic Poles did indeed freely participate in the German-sponsored mass murder of Jews at Jedwabne and environs. As far as these Poles were concerned, they were merely taking revenge for the earlier Jewish-Soviet collaboration against fellow Poles, and nothing more. Acting as they were in July 1941, which was before Nazi exterminatory policies against Jews became evident (late 1941 or early 1942), they could not possibly have had any inkling of the fact that their actions would contribute to the eventual systematic Nazi German extermination of 5-6 million Jews. On this basis, these Poles may be thought of as “accomplices” of the Nazis, but cannot be accused of “crimes against humanity”, let alone “complicity in the Holocaust”. And yet that is exactly what many Jews do today.

AN IRONY TO THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY

Nowadays, we see various European nations blamed, to some degree, for the Holocaust, so that “reparations” money can be extorted from them. Interestingly, when reparations were originally demanded--from Holocaust-perpetrator Germany alone--in the early 1950’s, some Jews saw even THAT as both hypocritical and self-serving. For instance, this was the view of Shmuel Tamir, who was in opposition to the Mapai ruling party in general and to David Ben Gurion in particular. [Note that Ben Gurion did little to alleviate the Holocaust then going on in Europe, which Zertal explains (or excuses) as a form of pragmatism.] (p. 29). Zertal comments, (quote) Referring to the issue of German reparations, Tamir had written: “And now, they want to protect their lying, parasitic regime by accepting ‘reparations’ for [the] extermination—in which they played a part—‘reparations’ for the flesh and blood of the Jewish people…maybe even…for the flesh and blood of their own fathers and mothers.” (unquote)(p. 89).

[For a more detailed--though perhaps excessive--critique of Ben Gurion’s conduct during the Holocaust, please click on, and read my detailed review, of Ben-Gurion's Scandals: How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated Jews].

Let us move beyond Ben Gurion and the Israeli politics of the 1950’s. What would Shmuel Tamir say, today, were he alive to see the long-lasting and ever-expanding Holocaust Industry?

JEWISH ATROCITIES AGAINST PALESTINIANS: KAFAR KASSEM

The best-known Jewish massacre of Arab civilians was at Deir Yassin in 1948. Zertal does not mention this, but he instead brings up the mass murder of 41 Arab villagers, men, women, and children, in October 1956, at Kafar Kassem. (pp. 172-173). Jewish officer Shalom Ofer, and several of his men, conducted the deed—a premeditated act of mass murder--based on the fact that some of the Arabs had failed to obey the curfew. Shalom Ofer was unrepentant of this crime, saying that “We acted like Germans, automatically, we didn’t think.” (p. 172). In contrast, Rabbi Benyamin was quoted as saying, “‘Soon we shall resemble Nazis and pogromists.’” Yeshayahu Leibovitz went as far as suggesting that the Nuremberg defendants will now have to be rehabilitated. (p. 172).
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