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Abusing the Holocaust

Abusing the Holocaust

Invoking the Holocaust to bash Israel.


Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, opened a recent response to critics of his statements on Israel (including the author of this column) by referring to his father's "escape" from Nazi Germany. Roth often uses this theme in addressing Jewish audiences.

In a November 2004 interview with The Jerusalem Post Roth also began his defense by referring to his father's "stories of life in Nazi Germany until he fled in summer 1938." That interview took place after angry responses to a press conference at the American Colony Hotel, in which Roth publicized HRW's report ("Razing Rafah") attacking Israeli measures to stop Palestinian weapons smuggling into Gaza. The same phrases appear on Roth's personal home page and in articles by his friends.

Rosa Brooks, a former HRW employee, defended Roth in the Los Angeles Times during the fighting in Lebanon by noting that his father had "fled Nazi Germany." And Reed Brody, who works closely with Roth at HRW and led the campaign to try Ariel Sharon in Belgium as a "war criminal," refers to his own father's status as a Holocaust survivor.

Roth's (and Brody's) frequent use of this issue suggest that their parents' relationship to the Holocaust gives them special standing and immunity to criticism. Roth states that "my personal existence is very much a product of human rights abuse," implying he has a moral duty to campaign against such abuse whenever and wherever it takes place, and that Israel should not receive special treatment.

Except that Israel does receive special treatment by Roth and HRW, in a negative and highly discriminatory manner. Detailed analysis of HRW's activities by NGO Monitor, and verified independently, clearly demonstrate a highly disproportionate emphasis on allegations against Israel. During the 34-day war in Lebanon, HRW issued over 30 statements -- most of which attacked Israel. Hizbullah's illegal aggression was never mentioned, and a few words were devoted to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Roth and HRW are clearly using their power to target Israel.

In this situation, the constant invocation of the Holocaust by Roth and his defenders is unconvincing and odious.

Nazi Germany's mass murder of the Jewish people in no way excuses or justifies HRW reports that accuse Israel of "indiscriminate strikes on civilians," "collective punishment" and "war crimes" - the same offenses committed by the Nazis.

In the Kana incident of July 2006, HRW's report, which falsely accused Israel of killing 56 civilians in this Southern Lebanese village, was repeated around the world; by the time HRW issued a partial correction, the damage was irreversible.

If a Jew and son of a Nazi victim can use such terms, then others who follow are immune to accusations of anti-Semitism.

The experiences of Roth's father also did not justify HRW's attacks on Israel in 2002, when it inaccurately labeled Israeli actions to end Palestinian suicide attacks from Jenin as "war crimes," paving the way for other NGOs, as well as in news reports and editorial cartoons, to use the same language to promote a pernicious analogy between Israel and the Nazis, particularly in Muslim countries and Europe.

If a Jew and son of a Nazi victim can use such terms, then others who follow are immune to accusations of anti-Semitism. (Norman Finkelstein also uses this strategy, linking the fact that his parents are survivors to his radical anti-Israel campaigns and repugnant references to "the Holocaust industry.")

Maintaining a calm and emotion-free demeanor to argue the case is difficult when the memory of the Six Million murdered by the Nazis is used to bash Israel. For the vast majority of Jews who escaped or survived the Nazis and either came to Israel after the war or strongly support Israel's right to defend itself, these comparisons are particularly offensive. One of the major lessons that others draw from the Holocaust is the need for Jews to be able to defend themselves and never again to be vulnerable to such murderous attacks.

In contrast, after again invoking his father, Roth declares "Among the lessons that I drew from his stories was that military force alone is not enough to combat the world's evils."

Beyond the triteness of this statement (no intelligent person believes in "military force alone"), the implication, once again, is that Israel is violating the "lessons" of the Holocaust by using force to defend itself.

This attempt to appropriate the "lessons of the Holocaust" has also destroyed the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written in response to German racism and mass murder. This document has been exploited for obsessive anti-Israel campaigns, such as the NGO Forum of the infamous Durban conference on Racism in 2001 (the HRW delegation was headed by Reed Brody), and the UN Human Rights Council. Roth claims to oppose the excesses of the UNHRC, but last year he condemned Israel and the US for warning that this would be the outcome.

The impact goes far beyond the fringe views of a few individuals; Roth heads a very powerful organization with an annual budget of $50 million. In addition to demonizing Israel and undermining human rights, this power furthers efforts to rewrite and distort the Holocaust. For this, there is no atonement.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post. [link to]

The writer directs the Program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University.

April 14, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) David Meles, July 8, 2007 5:51 PM



(10) (: Yoshe, May 6, 2007 3:13 PM

Only Love Endures ...

In every military endeavor, both sides lose. The emotional and physical scars, the destruction and killing - these have far-reaching black consequences. Only when we seek the best in each other, and do the right and kind thing, can we prevail. :)

(9) Heidi Hanssen, April 19, 2007 6:53 PM

About K.Roth

One can wonder why people who hate themselves also have to contribute the ignorants and hateful to hate innocent people?MrRoth, you are a Jew, be pround ang gad you are, and do not contribute to the hatred that already exist on no basis!Shame on you!

From a christianborn who wish to be a Jew

(8) Joe, April 19, 2007 10:22 AM

Take a deep breath of fresh air before going into the madhouse

I think it is important to look a little more deeply into the crazy-left's relativist camp - at least based on personal observation at a major American university.

The new left dogma all starts from hatred of the abuse of power, the strong's injustice towards the weak and a sense of duty to right the sins of the parent culture. So far, so good. Actually, good Jewish values.

This goes insanely off the path in the following two parallel steps. Both are needed to explain the twisted "logic" that abuses the Holocaust:

1. The dogma generates a "lowerarchy" of suffering. The group which is percieved as the most abused and downtrodden is placed in the highest spot of veneration, because they have the most injustice against them to be balanced out or repaired. Thus, association with a downtrodden group becomes a way to get veneration.

If this were viewed in a cold academic manner with good intentions, it could produce much needed social change. However, what follows are an unwritten bill of "victims" rights. Top of the bill, is the idea that the victim has no social responsibility himself. Grew up to be a drug dealing, gangster murderer? That's society's fault! As such, percieved grievance negates social responsibility - while perversely, the groups without the percieved grievance are of necessity to blame for the circumstances that caused our poor gangster to be so bad. Understand this, and you understand how the Islamists have captured the imagination of the Left.

So from the get go, calling on the story of his persecuted father is a way for Roth to get credibility in the lowerarchy. But he must go a step further. That is the second parallel.

2. If you are a part of the dominant culture - i.e. educated America - you must conclude that you personally are to blame for all of the abuse of power that created the lowerarchy in the first place. Simply put, our Grandparents did too good a job fighting the Second World War. The kind of cringing self loathing, that identifies more with a lowerarchy of victimhood rather than trying to acieve in a hierarchy of succes, and that always blames one's own culture for every fault in the world, can only come from the most plush and spoiled of backgrounds. The spoiled child has everything done for him. So every slight or setback presents a feeling of victimhood. This gets projected on to the other groups. It is only fair that if I whine and get my way, they should too. Since there is only one group at the top, they must be the cause of all this whining. So we have the same response from the new-left towards America - and by extension Israel - as the child who in a fit of pique tells his parents that he hates them. It isn't a matter of balanced thought.

Now to justify this, you need to focus on all the faults of your own culture. Hence, home becomes no good. However, what spoiled child wants the responsibilty of any social contract - let alone a different one? They conclude that all cultures that have success must be equally bad. Hence, everything is equally wrong for those in power and equally right for those without it.

But how do you make such an argument and get in good with your lefty friends? Well, first you establish your place on the lowerarchy. Second, you show how much you hate the side with percieved power.

Don't think of any of this as rational.
But this is where it all comes from.

As a final note: (and please don't edit me too much) There are some Jews, who do use the horrors of the Holocaust as a cheap debate point - on the other side. We all know the type, any question about Israel, proper or improper, gets the same hysterical reference to Hitler response. They need to be gently told about Judaism's respect for the dead too. Further, when dealing with the improper questions, they should learn enough history and fact about Israel to adress the foolishness directly. When dealing with proper questions, they should learn the lessons that Judaism has about humility, and try to approach them logically.

On a more damging level, you should get embrace Judaism for positive reasons - not because of the Holocaust. Collective horror over those terrible years is no basis for a vibrant Jewish culture or a strong Jewish identity. In fact, such a basis of identity will drive young Jews away. That is the ultimate abouse of the memory of the dead.

(7) Leigh, April 17, 2007 8:41 AM

I don't understand this at all

This is a great article. I do not understand the logic of these self-hating Jewish traitors. Why does something automatically have to be wrong with Jews, because Hitler had 6 million of them exterminated? Call me crazy, but couldn't the problem be with... Hitler himself? I deplore this whole reverse the roles mentality. "The victim is always wrong and the perputrator is just a misunderstood victim that had no other options." This mentality has been applied to domestic abuse, rape, etc. It is not acceptable for those, so why do people keep on using it for something as serious as this?

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