Daniel GreenfieldThe writer is a popular New York City based freelance commentator and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He blogs at sultanknish.blogspot.com
Universalists believe that the only way to stop another Holocaust is to destroy nationalism, patriotism and the modern state.
There are two basic human responses to an assault. I will protect myself or I will make the world a better place. The first deals with the risk of an attack. The second with your insecure feelings about the world. The first leaves you better able to cope with an attack. The second makes you feel better about the world that you live in.
The Jewish response to the Holocaust fell into these two categories; Never Again and Teach Tolerance. Never Again became the credo of Israel and Teach Tolerance became the credo of the Western Diaspora.
There were Israelis who believed in teaching tolerance and Western Jews who believed in self-defense, but the responses were structural because the divide between Nationalists and Universalists predated the Holocaust.
The Holocaust was a transformative event, but the responses to it came from old debates. The pogroms had led to the same fork in the road between a collective struggle for a better world and national self-defense, between the Universalists and the Nationalists, between the left and the right. The current debates about Israel by Jews and non-Jews revisit those old arguments.
To the Nationalists, the Holocaust was not an unexpected event and Nationalist leaders like Jabotinsky had warned that it was coming. To the Universalists, it was an inexplicable event that challenged the entire progressive understanding of history as a march toward enlightenment.
Violent bigotry was supposed to be the opposite of modernity. History moved forward, not backward. Unlike Czarist Russia, Soviet Russia and Weimar Germany were too modern for mass murder. And then they weren't.
The Holocaust was a mugging in broad daylight on the biggest street of the biggest city in the world. Its message was that human beings had not magically become better people because Berlin had a subway and phone calls could be made across the Atlantic. The Nationalists attributed it to human nature, while the Socialists blamed reactionary nationalism. The Universalists insisted that true progress would come with world unity while the Nationalists went off to build their own castle.
The Holocaust deepened the divide between the Universalists and the Nationalists. The Universalists thought the Holocaust made it more urgent for us to work toward a better world while the Nationalists saw history as a cycle of civilizations that had to be survived, rather than a utopian harbor where strife would end and the fighting would stop.
What the Universalists had always hated about Israel was what a Jewish State symbolized; a turning away from the great dream of the Brotherhood of Man for another reactionary state. Zionism had been rejected by much of the left for its abandonment of universalism. Luminaries of the left from Lenin to H.G. Wells denounced Zionism as a reactionary roadblock to world unity. The answer to the Jewish problem was assimilation, not conglomeration. And to many liberals, Israel's existence is still so pernicious because it lures Jews away from the dream of a better world.
The schism on the left over Zionism is slowly being won by the Anti-Zionists whose visceral hatred is for the Jewish State as a reactionary entity, a retreat from the borderless world. They do not criticize Israel for human rights violations. They find or invent human rights violations because they have labeled Israel as a reactionary entity and in their worldview all reactionary entities oppress and only reactionary entities oppress. The Soviet Union was progressive and therefore not oppressive. Israel is reactionary and therefore oppressive.
The Universalists interpreted the Holocaust as a Nationalist phenomenon and through that warped logic, Israel as a Nationalist response to the Holocaust is just like Nazi Germany. By wanting their own country, their own flag and their own army, the Jews became just like the Nazis. Instead of adopting the Universalist response of national suicide to mass murder, the Jewish people decided to live. And that is a crime that the left can never forgive them for.
Jewish Universalists have always been vaguely ashamed of Israel. They used to understand the need for it in their guts, even as their ideological minds struggled against it, but over time that feeling faded because the things that you feel but do not say are hard to pass down to future generations.
Holocaust museums were built, books were written and tours conducted into Anne Frank's attic, but the understanding of what these things meant was not passed down. The only lesson was to make the world a better place by teaching everyone to be tolerant so that history would not repeat itself. As if any amount of courses and slides on tolerance could stop history from repeating itself.
There are nice Jewish boys and girls who have read Anne Frank's diary, visited Auschwitz and come away anti-Semites. They don't call themselves that because their Universalist ignorance is so profound that they don't even know what they are. Instead they call themselves human rights activists, they boycott Israeli products, smash Jewish store windows, hug terrorists and rationalize suicide bombers.
And what else were they supposed to do when the lessons that they drew from the Holocaust are that the underdog is always right, that people in uniforms are bad and that you always have to stand up for minorities.
That is the Holocaust in its universalized form. Never Again made the Holocaust a teachable moment for Jews. Teach Tolerance made it a teachable moment for all mankind. The Nationalist and the Universalist drew two opposite lessons from the Holocaust. The Nationalists focused on resistance while the Universalists focused on persecution. The Nationalist aspires to be a ghetto fighter while the Universalist aspires to be a good German.
The Universalist lesson of the Holocaust is that we must all aspire to be good Germans because our governments, at least the non-progressive ones, are embryonic Third Reichs that are only one flag-waving leader away from opening concentration camps. The Universalists believe that the only way to stop another Holocaust is to destroy nationalism, patriotism and the modern state.
This is what they believed before the Holocaust. And it isn't the Holocaust that motivates them. The Holocaust has been hijacked and distorted as another teaching tool for the left. Its history is one where the Jews happen to stand in for Native Americans, African-Americans or any other victim group, but have no identity, motives or interests of their own. The dead Jews are empty symbols with no tangible claims on the past or on the future. They died to teach us to be better people.
And so the boys and girls, Jewish and non-Jewish, smash Jewish store windows and throw stones at Jewish soldiers out of a desire to be good Germans. Their method of avoiding a repetition of the Holocaust is to perpetuate it by persecuting Jews by being good Germans. If they manage to destroy Israel and all its Jews, then they'll be the best Germans of them all.
This Universalist doctrine does not mention the English boys, who were being good Germans before the time when those words meant anything, by gathering at anti-war rallies. It does not mention the leftist intellectuals who insisted that the Allies were no better than the Nazis or the Communist Universalists of the Soviet Union who allied with Nazi Germany.
The debate over Israel is only one of many such fights between Universalists and Nationalists of every creed and from every nation. It is a struggle between those who believe that nations, religions and cultures have innate worth, and those who believe that they are obstacles to the great jello bowl of togetherness.
The Nazi Holocaust failed, but the Universalist Holocaust is still ongoing. Every time a leftist gets up to denounce Israel and to look forward to the day when it disappears, the Universalist Holocaust grinds on. And they have no shortage of Jewish assistants who are eager to complete the task, believing that a humanitarian utopia waits on the other side of the gas chamber door.
The Jewish Universalists lost faith in G-d, but they did not lose faith in humanity. They still believe with all their hearts that if they strum the guitar loud enough and sing, "Imagine", that a better world will appear behind that door. Disbelieving in history, they have forgotten that the last time that door was opened in Russia, there was barbed wire and bitter cold on the other side.
Jewish Nationalists understood what was coming last time. They understand what is coming this time. Yet no matter how many times they are proven right, the beautiful dreamers refuse to listen to the history which proves them wrong. They're still waiting for the dead hand of history to let go and the better world to be born out of the ashes of the old.
History is the road map that charts where the past lives that made ours possible have gone and shows us where the lives that we make possible may go. The Universalist Holocaust would burn those maps and kill our future for their better world.