Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Drawing the Wrong Lessons

The New Holocaust Silence
Part II -Drawing the Wrong Lessons

A guest post by the Refrocked Bray of Fundie

The issue: Theories as to why Kharedim seem to disdain Holocaust remembrance and studies in general and Holocaust Kinos on Tihsa B’Av in particular.

Yesterday I opined that it was a nettlesome theological question that was being avoided. But, truth be told, in the decades following the war there are MANY Hashqafa lessons that have atrophied into, truisms, bromides and received wisdom that are at odds with many Hashqafistic planks in the Kharedi platform.

As most of these historical “lessons” look as if they are true on a superficial level, and as counterarguments and counterintuitive lessons are usually long, nuanced and will often be derided by opponents as obscurantist, magical thinking, hair-splitting sophistry the alternative was to maintain a hushed silence over the topic altogether. Today I’d like to examine some of these “lessons”” and at least begin to clarify why these are antithetical to much of what Kharedim believe.

Truism:-Never Again: A slogan, a byword a short and snappy angry roar at history and a loud shout of defiance of a destiny that would repeat it. “We” will mobilize never to allow this to happen anywhere (e.g. Darfur) but especially never to Jews, again. Once religion is factored out “Never Again” is, in fact, the raison detere’ that legitimizes of the entire “remembrance ” exercise. Other than to prevent future repetitions what is the sense of traumatizing our youth with so graphic, horrible and gory a history?

Kharedi response: Let’s hope and pray not: The very phrase reeks of the kokhee v’otzem yadee= “My power and the might of my hands” Qefira, as if we, rather than G-d, are the prime movers of history. This hubris denies hashgakha pratis=Divine providence. Inquiring Kharedi minds also puzzle over the paradox of why those that lay the blame for the Holocaust at HaShem’s feet (yediah) rather than the Nazis (bekhira) would then turn around and, in essence, declare and wage war against an Almighty G-d. As current geopolitics indicates (concentration of 5.5 million Jews in one central location Ahmenjinijad and others looking for Nuclear or sundry WMD really Final Solutions) the din and uproar generated by shouting “Never Again” as if it were really up to us is nothing more than white noise drowning the obnoxious screeching of egomania and demented self-delusion.

Truism: There’s nothing qualitatively unique about the Holocaust: There were many genocides in history. Of Armenians by Turks, of Kurds by Iraqis of Tutus by Hutsis , of Chinese by Japanese, of Russians, Chinese and Cambodians by their own governments, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herza Govinia. Also, the Nazis and their allies persecuted Communists, Homosexuals, J-Witnesses and Roma-Gypsies along with Jews. True the Germans were more efficient and killed greater numbers than the other genocides enumerated but this is a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one.

Kharedi response: The Holocaust is uniquely Jewish and, perhaps, uniquely German: The French existential philosopher Jean Paul Sartre wrote in Anti-Semite and Jew (I paraphrase) “if history had not given us the Jew the Anti-Semite would have invented him”. A neat formula that universalizes racism. But as far as Kharedim are concerned this idea is the product of a Goyisher Kop albeit a brilliant philosophical one. Jewish Torah sensibility detects something uniquely malevolent about anti-Semitism. In our source books it is cast as an ongoing immutable truth for which no cure, save the advent of the Messiah, exists. It is nothing less than a proxy war against G-d by doing battle with His people. Jew- hatred, especially of the genocidal strain, is unique because Jews are. Add to this the urban legends about Gedolim and Bible codes indicating that the Germans are, in fact, descendants of our duel-to-the-death historical arch-enemies Amalek and you begin to understand why Kharedim bristle at the notion that the Armenian genocide is “of a piece” with the Holocaust.

More “Wrong Lessons” next time

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