Holocaust 2007

The Holocaust as political asset
By Amira Hass

The cynicism inherent in the attitude of the institutions of the Jewish state to Holocaust
survivors is not a revelation to those born and living among them. We grew up with the
yawning gap between the presentation of the State of Israel as the place of the Jewish
people’s rebirth and the void that exists for every Holocaust survivor and his family. The
personal “rehabilitation” was dependent on the circumstances of each person: the
stronger ones versus the others, who did not find support from the institutions of the
state. During the 1950s and 1960s we saw the demeaning view of our parents as having
gone “like sheep to the slaughter,” the shame of the new Jews, the Sabras, over their
misfortunate, Diaspora relatives.

It can be argued that during the first two decades, much of this attitude could be
attributed to the lack of information and the very human lack of an ability to grasp the full
meaning of the industrialized genocide perpetrated by Germany. But the awareness of
the material aspects of the Holocaust started very early, with Jewish and Zionist
institutions starting in the early 1940s to discuss the possibility of demanding
reparations. In 1952, the reparations agreement with Germany was signed, by which that
country agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel to cover the absorption
costs of the survivors and pay for their rehabilitation. The agreement obligated Germany
to compensate survivors individually as well, but the German law differentiated between
those who belonged to the “circle of German culture” and others. Those who were able
to prove a connection to the superior circle received higher sums, even if they emigrated
in time from Germany. Concentration camp survivors from outside the “circle” received
the ridiculous sum of 5 marks per day. The Israeli representatives swallowed this

This is part of the roots of financial cynicism that the media is being exposed to today,
due to several reasons: the advanced age and declining health of survivors, the
intentional weakening of the welfare state, the presence of survivors from the former
Soviet Union who are not included in the reparations agreement, the media activism of
nongovernmental welfare organizations and the welcome enlistment of social affairs
They are shocked by the gap between the official appropriation of the Holocaust, which is
perceived in Israel as understood and justified, and the abandonment of survivors.
Turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the
Palestinians. When the Holocaust is on one side of the scale, along with the guilty (and
rightly so) conscience of the West, the dispossession of the Palestinian people from
their homeland in 1948 is minimized and blurred.

The phrase “security for the Jews” has been consecrated as an exclusive synonym for
“the lessons of the Holocaust.” It is what allows Israel to systematically discriminate
against its Arab citizens. For 40 years, “security” has been justifying control of the West
Bank and Gaza and of subjects who have been dispossessed of their rights living
alongside Jewish residents, Israeli citizens laden with privileges.

Security serves the creation of a regime of separation and discrimination on an ethnic
basis, Israeli style, under the auspices of “peace talks” that go on forever. Turning the
Holocaust into an asset allows Israel to present all the methods of the Palestinian
struggle (even the unarmed ones) as another link in the anti-Semitic chain whose
culmination is Auschwitz. Israel provides itself with the license to come up with more
kinds of fences, walls and military guard towers around Palestinian enclaves.

Separating the genocide of the Jewish people from the historical context of Nazism and
from its aims of murder and subjugation, and its separation from the series of genocides
perpetrated by the white man outside of Europe, has created a hierarchy of victims, at
whose head we stand. Holocaust and anti-Semitism researchers fumble for words when
in Hebron the state carries out ethnic cleansing via its emissaries, the settlers, and
ignore the enclaves and regime of separation it is setting up. Whoever criticizes Israel’s
policies toward the Palestinians is denounced as an anti-Semite, if not a Holocaust
denier. Absurdly, the delegitimization of any criticism of Israel only makes it harder to
refute the futile equations that are being made between the Nazi murder machine and the
Israeli regime of discrimination and occupation.

The institutional abandonment of the survivors is rightly denounced across the board.
The transformation of the Holocaust into a political asset for use in the struggle against
the Palestinians feed on those same stores of official cynicism, but it is part of the


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