Op-Ed: Commonalities of Holocaust Deniers and Anti-Zionists
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
“It seems as if Israel’s main ideological adversaries outside the Arab and Muslim world are Israeli and Jews abroad. These people are much appreciated by Israel’s non-Jewish enemies. The self-appointed Israeli “true Left” takes positions that are commonly referred to as post-Zionist. In fact, they are anti-Zionist.
“This ideology refuses to grant the Jewish people the right of self-determination and thus Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This means that it also denies that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic. Leading intellectuals, both Jewish and non-Jewish, play a major role in this new mutation of anti-Semitism.”
Elhanan Yakira is Schulman Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He holds a doctorate from the Sorbonne in France and has published various books. His book Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust: Three Essays on Denial, Forgetting, and the Delegitimation of Israel, sparked a major public debate in Israel when the original Hebrew version appeared in 2006. He describes himself as part of the secular Zionist left.
“There are no Holocaust deniers in Israel. Some Israeli academics and others of the radical Left however, use the Holocaust as a major argument in undermining the moral justification of Israel and demonizing it. One should not underestimate the significance or the immorality of these positions.
“The discourse of the Israeli anti-Zionists is similar to that of parts of the Left and extreme Left abroad. In their discourse, anti-Zionists often employ the attitudes of philosopher Hannah Arendt toward Zionism. Although I doubt that if she were alive today, she would share their views. Ahrendt’s book on Eichmann in particular, has made her a symbol for the anti-Israeli sub-culture.
“With respect to the Holocaust’s role in post-Zionism — in fact anti-Israelism — one finds certain analogies with Holocaust denial, namely with the claim that the Holocaust never occurred. This especially concerns deniers who come from the radical Left. This brand of denial, which is a peculiar phenomenon, is mainly French.
What is special about this denial is not the Holocaust, which is its obsession, but more specifically, the existence of a Jewish state. Since, goes the claim, the Holocaust is the cause and only possible justification of Israel’s existence had it never happened, Israel’s right to exist collapses.
“For the post-Zionists — actually anti-Zionists — too, the Holocaust as such is not of interest. They posit falsely that the Holocaust is the universal and basic explanation for the existence of Israel and of its conduct. The structure of the argument of the two sides is the same.
“They develop further arguments based on the false premise that the Holocaust is the sole reason for the creation and existence of Israel. The international community, they claim, would never have supported Israel financially, politically, morally, militarily, if not for the “extortion” based on the Holocaust. The other side of this argument is that the Holocaust explains the Israeli psyche, ethos, politics of power and its alleged violence.
Israel fights its enemies, but with far more restraint than anyone else. The claim that the Israeli ethos is one of violence is libelous.
“The truth is radically different. The foundations for the realization of the Zionist program were laid long before the Holocaust became even a possibility. Furthermore, the one instance in Jewish history where Jews had political power, but did not use it for killing, is in the Zionist movement. Israel fights its enemies, but with far more restraint than anyone else. The claim that the Israeli ethos is one of violence is libelous.
“The post-Zionists develop their false arguments in various directions. For instance they ask, ‘Why should the Palestinians pay the price for what has been done to Jews in Europe?’ This is also phrased as ‘Israel is born in sin.’ These demonizers then claim that in order to become better people, Israel and the Jews should forget about the Holocaust.
“Such arguments have gained certain presence in Israeli academia and in the Israeli cultural scene. Based on these, much literature has been disseminated and an intellectual community of similar-minded distorters created. The best way to advance internationally in academic circles is to be part of a system. One is then frequently invited abroad and gets published, even if one’s work has no significant substance. In the last few years, we have witnessed the publication of a great number of post-Zionist books outside Israel.
“I have always belonged to the secular Left. Many Israelis who are part of the so-called “Zionist Left,” thought that their position was morally defensible. Some still barely realize that in the eyes of anti-Zionists, they belong with all other Israelis to a homogeneous criminal crowd. Many of them found out that they were opposing their own personal friends and colleagues.
“In the past we have only been apologetic about mistakes made by Israel, like anyone else. We have been far too timid in confronting our Israeli and Jewish enemies. We must now repeat consistently and loudly that anti-Zionism is an outrage and a sign of moral bankruptcy.”