“Even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins…”
Walter Benjamin’s typically prophetic words spring to mind on hearing the latest blasphemy from Benjamin Netanyahu.
There has long been a deranged, hard right pro-Israeli revision of the history of the Holocaust. In it, a Palestinian leader with no authority, no state, no army and far from the killing centres of Eastern Europe has been held as somehow co-responsible for the attempted annihilation of all those Jewish people who came under the Third Reich from the late summer of 1941 to the liberation of the camps and the collapse of the regime in 1945.
So you find in “encyclopaedias” of the Holocaust half a dozen or more pages devoted to the ever-so diabolical “Grand Mufti of Jerusalem”, with perhaps a page given over to Adolf Eichmann or any of the other actual architects of the genocide.
The irrefutable history – from all reputable historians, *all* – is, of course, that this was a European genocide, committed in Europe, by Europeans, by the most powerful state in Europe, under the organisation of an ideology and political forces impeccably European, deploying in a particular and concentrated, virulent form methods which had been developed by European powers in their colonies but now refluxed back into the continent which spawned them – under the cover of a general European war. All in Europe. By Europeans. Against Europeans.
Those who maintained that Hitler was either oblivious to that greatest of crimes or was personally at odds with the excesses of his underlings fell, until now, into two camps – grotesque, old anti-Semitic “revisionist” historians, and grotesque very dangerous modern incarnations of the fascist ideology and political program which executed the Holocaust.
Until now. Until the current prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu. According to him Hitler, apparently, had no intention of physically destroying the Jewish people. He was led, Svengali-like, to do so by an Arab. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
There’s little point in adding here to the deluge of refutation of Netanyahu’s exculpation of German fascism, Hitler, the Third Reich… to his embrace of David Irving, Robert Faurisson and the other intellectual charlatans of the far right.
Absolutely everyone who has made even the slightest study of the Holocaust is doing so – they include Israel’s official interpretative institution of the genocide, Yad Vashem.
What is shockingly clear now, as he refuses to resile and is joined by others from his hard care supporters, is that the prime minister of Israel has demonstrated something which, when I remember it first being said over 30 years ago, struck me then as outlandish, a provocation with potentially dangerous undertones, an unnecessary polemic.
It is not just that the man who is referred to routinely as in some ways the leader of all Jewish people, no matter where in the world they live or what their thoughts and political view point, has violated history in order to claim that those whose land Israel is occupying are in some sense responsible for the enormous crime in Europe of the 1940s.
We should not be surprised by that. This has been the mode of operation not only of previous Israeli leaders but of the state itself.
Something else happened today. As the trial of Golden Dawn takes place in Greece, as beleaguered forces battle against fascism in Hungary (which remains animated by Nazi anti-Semitism as a cornerstone of its worldview) and as the far from transformed chameleon fascists of the Front National in France continue to advance, the prime minister of Israel has said that the Holocaust is not the work of European forces such as fascism and Hitler back then. It is the Arab, the Muslim who is to blame. He has lawyered for Nazism.
Those who already stand with the Palestinians are not only outraged, but confident in expressing how they feel tonight. That’s good.
We should not, however, simply feel content in our indignation. The happiest people tonight are the developed forces of European fascism. They have been given a lavish gift from Tel Aviv.
And the most confused people tonight will be those who genuinely wish to oppose the far right and racism, and who thought that – whatever its excesses towards the Palestinian people – the state of Israel was at least an ally in that.
It is not. Netanyahu has shown that the memory of the Holocaust is not safe in the hands the Israeli state.
It rests with those who fight for universal justice. And, while revealing the utter moral bankruptcy of one of the obstacles to achieving such justice – the apartheid state of Israel, let us not tonight be oblivious to what Netanyahu has strengthened.
He has given an enormous fillip to Nazi-style anti-Semitism (to nihilistic and sectarian forces such as ISIS also – but they were in need of no such boost: European fascism and Nazism was).
Such Nazi-revisionism is still not mainstream. But today many hundreds of thousands of people in the orbit of the fascist right in Europe heard that one of the inhibitions which still hold many back from throwing in their lot with the likes of Golden Dawn is a myth: they have heard that bringing “order” and “racial pride” to Germany in the 1930s did not lead to the Holocaust. That was the work of today’s other despised Other: the Muslim.
And they heard this blast of Holocaust revisionism – which in its proper sense, rather than policing of the left, has always been about trivialising the genocide or denying its lines of responsibility – from the prime minister of the state of Israel.