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“Amnesia Peddled As Blithe Counter-History”: Ben Carson Is Wrong About The Holocaust; Jews Did Fight Back

Wolf Blitzer, the improbably named CNN personality, is no one’s idea of an adroit interviewer. His questions have a certain Dada quality, strings of declarative fragments that seem to have been cut and pasted at random. Ben Carson, the suddenly notable presidential candidate, is a slightly better interviewee, if only because, if you can get past his sleepily anodyne delivery, he is almost guaranteed to say something oblivious, terrifying, or both. Carson’s campaign is Your Older Relative’s Facebook timeline, a series of utterly fantastic claims and propositions presented as the commonest sense. It seemed unlikely that Blitzer, in a Thursday interview, would shake anything loose that wasn’t already rattling around under the hood of the Carson express.

So it came as a surprise when the Internet lit up with word that Blitzer had nabbed Carson’s most improbable claim yet, that “the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.” But Thursday was not the first time Carson has made this claim.

One of the weirder rituals of the American presidential campaign is the production of the campaign book. These tend to be widely purchased but little read. Their titles echo lyrics of patriotic songs or pull-quotes from historic American oratory. They’re little more than invitations to cable news bookers who would’ve booked the candidates for interviews anyway. Well, Wolf’s producers actually combed through A More Perfect Union, Carson’s latest epistle to the American people, and they discovered the claim that one of the foundations of the Holocaust was civil disarmament.

Whatever else he may be, Ben Carson is not a rigorous thinker, and it’s unlikely he paused to clarify in his own mind whether it was all Germans who would’ve martialed a civic militia to sweep Hitler from power or just Germany’s Jews who would’ve shot their way to freedom like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The notion that private gun ownership prevents tyranny is more an article of faith than a thesis statement. It is worth noting that Hitler’s actual attempt at an armed putsch failed, and the Nazis only later came to power through democratic, parliamentary means. If it’s no longer in vogue to say that all Germans were “Hitler’s willing executioners,” then it’s still fair to note that the Nazis swiftly and effectively consolidated their power and achieved broad support in their country.

But Carson’s comments, thoughtless or no, touch on a troubling undercurrent in the popular Western mythology of the Holocaust: the notion of the Jews as universally passive victims who did not resist their own destruction. This image is amplified in the sentimental portrayals of the Holocaust in so much of our film and media, in which the Jewish victims of the Nazi killing machine are urban, intellectual, and assimilated: city people who would never own a gun or fight back. The shopkeepers and intellectuals and small industrialists are rounded up and packed off to their doom. At best, they hide, or some Schindler saves them.

Eastern Europe, in this narrative, remains vast and undifferentiated. That Jews, cosmopolitan and rural alike, did resist remains unremarked. This serves the American self-image as the singular vanquisher of Hitler’s regime, which was unstoppable and inexorable until our boys made the beachhead at Omaha. But, though it failed and was overwhelmed, there was active resistance in Nazi-conquered Europe throughout the war, and Jews were among the resisters. We do remember the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but we forget that there was armed resistance throughout the ghettos of Poland and the occupied Soviet Union, more than one hundred instances in all. There were uprisings in the camps, in Treblinka and Sobibor and eventually in Auschwitz. Jews fought among partisan resisters in almost every country in occupied Europe. They formed their own partisan resistance groups, like the Bielski partisans in occupied Poland (now Belarus), often facing both German and Soviet forces.

This resistance was not successful. It reveals the lie in Carson’s real central claim. Armed citizens could not prevail against the might of the Wehrmacht. It required the combined power of the Western Allies and the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler, and even then at the cost of tens of millions of lives. But it also reveals the hateful and frankly anti-Semitic assumption that the Jews of Europe stumbled meekly to their own slaughter.

A grim irony is that the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom was blamed on a Jew with a gun. Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish-German Jew living in Paris, upon learning of the expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany, bought a gun and bullets (quite legally), went to the German embassy, and assassinated the diplomat Ernst vom Rath. (An additional irony: Rath, though an anti-Semite himself, had expressed regret at the treatment and suffering of Jews.) A citizen with a gun became one of the gross pretexts on which the Nazis began their Final Solution.

As a Jew, I find it uncommonly disturbing to be treated as a delicate historical artifact that must be preserved under armed guard at all times. There are many Jews, and many kinds of Jews. To reduce us to no more than the point of our almost-destruction and then display us forever as a cautionary tale is worse even than hatred—it’s contempt. And using the Holocaust as a debating point in America’s endless Second Amendment tussle is bad enough without the additional implication that mass extermination is just the sort of thing that happens to people who don’t ammo-up and fight back. Ben Carson likely won’t become president, and we will all feel better about laughing on Twitter at his inanity. But there is a very real problem with amnesia peddled as blithe counter-history. It isn’t disarmament, after all, that makes history repeat, but forgetfulness.

 

By: Jacob Bacharach, The New Republic, October 9, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Holocaust, Jews | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Sad, Dispiriting And Potentially Disrupting”: How Israel May Be Damaging The Alliance Between Blacks And Jews

“Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”

— A June 21 tweet by Judy Mozes, wife of Israeli interior minister and vice prime minister Silvan Shalom.

Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, a well-known Israeli radio and television personality, deleted the tweet and later apologized after drawing criticism for what she called a “stupid joke.”

Those who regard the Iran nuclear deal as a grave threat to Israeli and U.S. interests have a moral duty to vigorously oppose it, just as those of us who view the deal as the best way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon should work for its adoption. Vilifying the president of the United States with slurs and insults, however, is out of bounds. Except, perhaps, in some places and with some people.

U.S.-born Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has done his own anti-Obama number. Citing President Obama’s upbringing, Oren suggested in a series of recent articles in Foreign Policy that the president’s “abandonment” by his mother’s “two Muslim husbands” created in him a desire for “acceptance by their co-religionists” that has now influenced his foreign policy. Conspiracy theorists and birthers could hardly have said it better — Obama’s Christianity notwithstanding.

This is beneath the Michael Oren I thought I knew.

It has come to this: racially charged affronts to the president of the United States from, of all places, Israel.

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, a high official of the ancient kingdom of Persia, sought to annihilate the Jewish people. A few months ago, Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, a West Bank settlement, likened Obama to a scourge on the Holy Land, telling an audience, “The president of the United States is lashing out at Israel just like Haman lashed out at the Jews.”

Riskin wasn’t the first rabbi to dub Obama a reincarnation of Haman.

In 2012, Dov Lior, then chief rabbi of another West Bank settlement, Kiryat Arba, also compared Obama to Haman, according to Israel’s Army Radio. But Lior stooped lower. He labeled Obama a “kushi” of the West, which, the Jerusalem Post reported, is a modern-day derogatory term used to describe people of African descent.

It’s not only the name-calling and insults hurled at Obama that grab the gut. Behavior sends signals, too.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress drew rave reviews from his Republican hosts and most — but not all — of Israel’s supporters. Many members of the 46-member Congressional Black Caucus were outraged that Netanyahu would go behind the back of the White House and arrange with Republicans to use the U.S. Capitol as the stage to challenge the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations. Several chose to stay away.

U.S. representative and caucus member James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, said he regarded Netanyahu’s speech as an “affront to America’s first black president.”

In an interview with USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham, Clyburn called Netanyahu’s White House end run “a real in-your-face slap at the president, and black folks know it. . . . [Netanyahu] wouldn’t have done it to any other president.” Pressed as to why Netanyahu would disrespect Obama, Clyburn responded, “You know why.”

Should it come to a search for 40 Democratic votes to join the House’s 247 Republicans in voting to override a possible Obama veto of legislation blocking an Iranian deal, don’t look for help from the Congressional Black Caucus. Hostility to the current Israeli leadership is real, and not just among caucus members. Many of their African American constituents are quietly seething, too.

Clyburn’s “and black folks know it” speaks volumes.

To no surprise, Republicans are trying to exploit the situation.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a petition urging people to sign and “[t]ell Obama it’s now time to stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Are the petitions being circulated in Zip codes where large numbers of blacks reside? It would be wasted effort.

There is a larger concern. While the jury is still out, the argument over the Iran deal could well stress the long-standing and largely fruitful political alliance between blacks and Jews in this country.

It would be a pity if the nuclear arms debate shapes up as a dispute between U.S. supporters of Netanyahu’s policies and Americans who respect and trust Obama’s judgment. And it would be a sorrow to those of us who still look with favor upon an alliance that has stood the test in the hardest of times.

That may explain why the “Obama Coffee” insult, the rabbinical slurs and the below-the-belt punches of Israeli officials are so sad, dispiriting and potentially disrupting in ways that once seemed unimaginable.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 24, 2015

 

July 29, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Israel, Jews | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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