'Never Again' in Europe is Just a Meaningless Slogan

Considering all the speeches and tears marking the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation, you might think Europe really has learned its lesson. You would be wrong - it's just a case of out with the old, in with the new.

Ari Soffer

OpEds Ari Soffer
Ari Soffer
Ari Soffer

On Monday, award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley charged that Europe never really grieved the Holocaust, and as a result has never properly come to terms with what happened, nor achieved real atonement for its crimes. As a result, he warned, Europe is in real danger of "sliding back."

Is he right?

On the face of it, watching and reading the powerful speeches by world leaders, as well as the countless heart-rending documentaries marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on International Holocaust Memorial Day yesterday, you might think not. After all, there were plenty of tears, plenty of grief, plenty of strong words, plenty of solemn pledges to "never forget" and never allow such an atrocity to occur again.

Indeed, there is no doubt that the words and the sentiments were genuine. The liberal European and other world leaders of today really do mean it when they say they are dedicated to preventing a repeat performance of the events of 1938-1945 in Europe. The problem is that that is where it ends.

"Never again"? Of course! Never again shall white European fascists be allowed to goose-step their way unchallenged to building a vast industry of genocide against Jews, gypsies and other "undesirables." Never again shall we allow the far-right to impose its twisted ideas of "racial purity" onto western society. Never again shall the West turn a blind eye to a fascist regime building huge death camps to gas millions in Europe's backyard.

But that is not what "never again" means - and if it is, it is nothing more than an empty, utterly worthless slogan.

Because for the victims of deadly anti-Semitism, it doesn't really matter whether they are killed by a can of Zyklon B tossed by a German Nazi, or a Kalashnikov bullet fired by a Muslim terrorist. Equally, it matters remarkably little what the perceived "pretext" or "reasons" for that anti-Semitism are. Take your pick - for at any given time in history we Jews have been accused of everything from "polluting the white race" to trying to take over the world; we are simultaneously communist Bolsheviks and bourgeois capitalists in control of the banking system; we've even killed God - oh yes, and we dared to reject his "Messenger Mohammed."

Today - in the West at least - such justifications for anti-Semitism are unthinkable beyond the fringes (frighteningly emboldened as they may be). But that doesn't mean that anti-Semitism is defeated, or that the same pundits and opinion-shapers who are so committed to discrediting the discourse of "Sieg Heil", "White Power" and "Christ-killers" are equally committed to stamping out Jew-hatred per sa. Instead, they've just found a new pretext - this one far more "liberal", reasoned and even enlightened.

To quote renown French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy, in his speech at the recent UN conference against anti-Semitism:

To understand how anti-Semitism really operates today, we must abandon these clichés and listen instead to how it is expressed and how its supporters justify it.

Because, after all, the anti-Semites have never been content to say, "Well, that's how it is - we're bad people and we hate the poor Jews."


They have said, "We hate them because they killed Christ." That was Christian anti-Semitism.

They have said, "We hate them because, by producing monotheism, they invented Christ." That was the anti-Semitism of the Enlightenment, which wanted to do away with religion altogether.

They have said, "We hate them because they belong to another species recognizable by traits observed in them alone and that pollute other species." That was racist anti-Semitism, the variety contemporaneous with the emergence of the modern life sciences.

They even have said, "We have nothing against the Jews per se - no, no, really, nothing at all. And we couldn't care less whether they killed or created Christ or whether they are a separate race or not. Our complaint is just that most of them are plutocrats bent on dominating the world and oppressing the humble people." That was the socialism for dummies that, throughout Europe, infected the workers' movement at the time of the Dreyfus Affair.

Today, none of those arguments works anymore.

For reasons having to do with the history of the terrible 20th century, very few people, thank God, remain unaware that all those anti-Semitic arguments resulted in abominable massacres and have therefore been, as a French anti-Semitic writer once said, discarded by Hitlerism.

So, for the old virus to resume its assault on people's minds, for it once again to inflame crowds of ordinary people, for great numbers of men and women to resume hating while believing that they are doing a form of good, or, if you prefer, to believe that there could be legitimate reasons to hate the Jews, a new set of arguments is needed, one that history has not yet had time to debunk.

So, what is this new set of arguments used to justify contemporary anti-Semitism?

Levy succinctly breaks it down into three distinct points.

1. The Jews are detestable because they are assumed to support an evil, illegitimate, murderous state. This is the anti-Zionist delirium of the merciless adversaries of the re-establishment of the Jews in their historical homeland.

2. The Jews are all the more detestable because they are believed to base their beloved Israel on imaginary suffering, or suffering that at the very least has been outrageously exaggerated. This is the shabby and infamous denial of the Holocaust.

3. In so doing, the Jews would commit a third and final crime that could make them still more guilty, which is to impose on us the memory of their dead, to completely stifle other peoples' memories, and to overshadow other martyrs whose deaths have plunged parts of today's world, most emblematically that of the Palestinians, into mourning. And here we come face to face with the modern-day scourge, the stupidity, that is competitive victimhood.

Anti-Semitism needs these three formulations, which are like the three vital components of a moral atomic bomb.

Each taken separately would be enough to discredit a people, to make it abominable once more. But when the three are combined, brought into contact and allowed to form a knot, a node, a crux, a helix, well, at that point we can be pretty sure of facing an explosion of which all Jews, everywhere, will be the designated targets.

What a monstrous people, it will be said, to be capable of all three of these crimes!

What a strange picture is formed by this community of men and women adulterating what they should hold most sacred - the memory of their dead - for the base purpose of legitimizing an illegitimate state and sentencing the rest of the world's victims to silence deaf and dumb.

That is modern anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism will not return on a large scale unless it succeeds in popularizing this insane and vile portrait of the modern Jew.

It has to be anti-Zionist, it must deny the Holocaust, and it must feed the competition of pain - or it will not thrive: The logic is implacable, despicable, but compelling

Astoundingly, one need look no further than the mainstream European media to find a real, if subtle, manifestation of such a discourse. That same European media which may or may not actually be "anti-Semitic" itself, but which nevertheless does an impressively good job of providing conveniently-repackaged, "liberal" justifications for those people who are.

Take the UK - a country where anti-Semitism is certainly on the rise but still some way behind the levels seen on mainland Europe. On the very day - the very same day - that the world was making its solemn pledges of "never again," a British news presenter spent a considerable portion of his interview with the British Chief Rabbi trying to persuade him that the Jewish state of Israel is at least partially to blame for anti-Semitism.

I encourage you to watch the clip, and put aside for one second the utterly biased portrayal of Israeli acts of self-defense against merciless terrorists whose own charter draws its inspiration from a fusion of Islamic texts and the Nazi party platform. 

Now just consider for a second the prospect of a TV presenter treating a spokesperson from the Muslim or Black or gay community that way in an interview on, say, Martin Luther King Day. Are the actions of some Black people "pouring fuel on the fire of racism"? Do Muslim countries bear at least some responsibility for Islamophobia? Is homophobia - while terrible - partially due to the actions of some gay people? Such questions, directed at any other group, would provoke disgust and outrage - but directed towards Jews it is seen as totally acceptable.

And it's not a one-off. On the BBC, a senior news reporter can get away with haranguing a fearful Jewish woman expressing her alarm over anti-Semitism following the deadly Kosher supermarket attack, playing down her fears by retorting that "many critics though of Israel's policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well."

That's the same BBC reporter who felt quite comfortable discussing "rich Jews" and "Jewish lobbies" with his enlightened guests back in the warmth of the BBC's London studios. He still has his job - and why shouldn't he? He didn't give a Hitler salute or call her a Christ-killer, so he can't possibly be an anti-Semite! Besides, the BBC has made it abundantly clear that in its view Jew-baiting is a legitimate way to boost ratings.

But there you have it. The cheapest form of competitive victimhood, carried out shamelessly against the backdrop of Jewish suffering (in one case while the dead had not even been buried yet), with the not-so-subtle implication that we Jews should stop harping on about the Holocaust anyway. All neatly packaged and presented by respectable, mainstream media outlets.

I wonder if, were Adam Bolton or Tim Wilcox around back in the day, they would have asked the Jewish victims of crusades, pogroms and holocausts, who were shot and dumped in mass graves, or gassed, or burned at the stake, or torn to pieces by wild mobs, whether they had considered how "Jewish hands" (or tentacles) had perhaps contributed somewhat towards the Christian or Muslim or Aryan "grievances" of those people who were now killing them? Could they have avoided such a gruesome (though of course, of course condemnable!) fate by at the very least expressing their opposition to killing Jesus, or rejecting Mohammed, or polluting the white race...?

It is important to point out that these voices do not represent all Europeans. Indeed there are many people - both leaders and members of the wider public - who understand what "never again" truly means, who "get it" in the sense that they are able and willing to recognize the modern anti-Semitism for what it is, and who march side-by-side against all forms of anti-Semitism with their Jewish compatriots from Paris to Berlin to London.

They are struggling for truth - but sadly, as it stands the discourse is largely controlled by the likes of Wilcox, Bolton and their ilk. And that discourse is slowly, but surely, shaping the way in which Europe views its Jews.

People often ask me, a Jew born in Britain whose family has experienced both the holocaust (on my mother's side) and the ethnic-cleansing of Jews from Arab states (on my father's), and who myself have experienced European anti-Semitism on numerous occasions, whether I think "another holocaust" could happen again. My answer, always, is no. 

No; I can confidently say that there will never be another holocaust. Because that is not how history works. It repeats itself, for sure, but never word-for-word.

The Third Reich is gone forever, and its poisonous discourse is now so discredited as to appear genuinely alien to most sane people. It just isn't fashionable; European fascism's once attractive brand (and let the historical revisionists not con you into thinking its adherents were all somehow coerced into its ranks) has been utterly tainted by the smoke of six million cremated bodies.

But anti-Semitism is far from dead. Today, it just has a new brand, new slogans (from Allahu Akbar, to Free Palestine) - and it is as fashionable as "it" was back then, to the extent that in order to challenge it directly one must often literally run counter to the prevailing media and political discourse. And to the extent that - apart from the Islamofascist stormtroopers and their leftist and rightist fellow travelers - even respectable news outlets genuinely see no problem in pulling the Jews to the front of the class, and singling them out from all other minorities for provocation, interrogation and demonization.

So no, Europe has not yet internalized the lessons of the 20th century - the question is, will it ever do so?