There was something familiar about the Trump White House’s statement marking International Day in Commemoration of Victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27. And something odd about news media coverage and remonstrances following it.
The statement mentioned “victims, survivors and heroes” but not Jews or anti-Semitism. Criticized for this fundamental omission, the administration dug itself a deeper hole. A White House spokeswoman said erasing Jews — the targets of the Nazi Holocaust — was intentional so the Remembrance Day statement could take “into account all those who suffered.”
That’s historical revisionism, regardless of intent. It must be reiterated: The Holocaust, the result of Adolf Hitler’s war to the death between his Manichean phantasms of an inferior but cunning Jewish-Bolshevik-English enemy and a superior German nation and Aryan race, was not primarily an example of man’s inhumanity to man. It epitomized man’s inhumanity to the Jews.
Still, the Trump statement was more rerun than debut. Almost one year ago this writer noted in a Times of Israel commentary headlined “Remembering the Holocaust, Forgetting the Jews,” that Canada’s new prime minister, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, had issued a seven-sentence official statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that mentioned “millions of victims,” “the Holocaust” and “Nazis” but not Jews.
The European Union’s then-foreign affairs chief, Britain’s Catherine Ashton, did the same thing in 2014. Dame Catherine intoned that “the international community remembers the victims of the Holocaust.” It “honor[s] every one of those brutally murdered in the darkest period of European history.”
It just didn’t want to remind itself who they were. She did say “we must keep alive the memory of this tragedy. We must remain vigilant against the dangers of hate speech and redouble our commitment to prevent any form of intolerance.”
Blogger Yisrael Medad tweeted, “Lady Ashton (EU) manages great feat in honor of Holocaust Day. She does away with the Jews.” “So bad is anti-Semitism in EU and cowardly is Catherine Ashton — won’t even mention Jews when speaking of Holocaust,” said another Twitter user, according to The Algemeiner online newspaper.
Covering the Trump statement controversy, The Washington Post noted criticism of the White House from the political right and left. But it did not mention the virtually identical, previous erasures by Mr. Trudeau and Lady Ashton.
The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) national director, Jonathan Greenblatt — a former Obama White House staffer — correctly asserted, “This is not a political issue, this is a matter of not just sensitivity, it’s a matter of historical fact.” Yet the ADL had said nothing at the time about either Lady Ashton’s or Mr. Trudeau’s revisionism.
What, post-modernists might ask, is the subtext? Except, being post-modern, their commemorations tend to be post-post-Holocaust. Which, where Jews are concerned, is eerily pre-Holocaust.
Writing for the online magazine Tablet last May, journalist James Kirchick identified what’s up in “The Holocaust Without Jews,” the subhead of which read, “Attempts to universalize the specific suffering of Jews in the Shoah [Hebrew for the Holocaust] go hand in hand with efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state.”
According to Mr. Kirchick, “International Holocaust Remembrance Day has gradually been subjected to the universalizing prescriptions of those who would water down the particularly Jewish aspect of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. Imagine a remembrance of slavery that did not acknowledge the suffering of African-Americans — or a commemoration of the AIDS epidemic omitting the experiences of gay men.
“Such acts of dissociation would be inconceivable . Yet in recent years, that is precisely what has been going on with regard to the Holocaust and its chief victims, the Jews.”
Three sources advance this dissociation, Mr. Kirchick says. They are an Eastern European nationalist attempt to relativize the Holocaust “as just one of many ‘genocides’ committed during World War II,” traditional “Arab-Muslim denial or diminishment of the Holocaust as a grossly exaggerated event that pales in comparison to Israeli crimes” and a “progressive narrative that expunges Jewish suffering in its account of an amorphous, context-free misdeed.”
This confluence minimizes or denies the Holocaust “while hijacking it to bully Jews as ‘the new Nazis’ ” and misidentify Palestinian Arabs as the new Jews.
Mr. Kirchick ascribes Mr. Trudeau’s omission not to conscious bigotry but rather “a sort of purblind, mushy progressivism.” Then chalk the Trump White House statement up to mushy “compassionate conservatism.”
The EU’s amnesia, however, smacked of convenience. But its knee-jerk anti-Israel diplomacy won’t appease large, poorly assimilated Muslim populations or pacify its influential anti-Zionist left. Hatred for the Jewish state progressively entwines with hatred for the Jews. This makes continued, accurate commemoration of the Holocaust mandatory.
• Eric Rozenmann is a communications consultant in Washington, D.C.