Hard on the heels of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, new waves of hate surge up to batter Israel and the Jewish people. What is taking place at Rutgers University is one example.
This weekend several Rutgers student groups, backed by American Muslims for Palestine, The International Anti-Zionist Jewish Network, and The Middle East Children’s Alliance, will host “Never Again for Anyone,” an event part of a national tour purporting to promote peace and justice for Israel and surrounding lands.
The headline quote on the website of Never Again for Anyone is by Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer: “My great lesson from Auschwitz is whoever wants to dehumanise any other, must first be dehumanised himself. The oppressors are no longer really human whatever uniform they wear.” With all respect to his suffering and the haunting memories he carries, his conclusion is ethically inconsistent. If we deny the humanity of the perpetrators of genocide, we also deny their capacity for responsibility, and render null more than half a century’s worth of efforts to extract justice for their atrocities.
This distinction is particularly keen as this year is also the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem–which was, in addition to being a turning point in the history of the Shoah and its aftermath, also a defining event for the then-fledgling country of Israel. The Eichmann trial proved that Israel is a justice-loving country. In what other Middle Eastern nation would the perpetrator of massive genocide be treated, by the countrymen of his victims, with respect for the assumption of innocence? Not only does the trial itself stand as a monumental testament to the democratic principles upon which Israel was founded, but the controversy surrounding the infliction of the death penalty on this evil man displays the overwhelming respect for the sanctity of human life–all human life–deeply embedded in the nation’s ethics.
But even more immediately disturbing is the implication, by the use of this particular quote in this context, that the actions of Israel in self-defense against a literal host of nations bent on its destruction and the annihilation of the Jewish people worldwide are somehow comparable to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Let me reiterate. The victims are being called the villains.
To most people familiar, beyond a surface level informed only by heavily biased news sources, with the history and current situation of the state of Israel, these claims are mindbendingly absurd. At most, the rational person can comprehend that these myths and prevarications might be believed by a people subjected to an oppressive regime that censors the truth and aggressively inculcates its citizens. But in America, in an institution of higher learning in which the words “censorship” and “brainwashing” constitute two of the gravest accusations that could be flung at an individual or organization, this slander is not simply believed but actively promoted, celebrated, respected. How is it possible for so much ignorance and malice to prevail in a free society?
To begin to understand, first examine the event’s sponsors and endorsers. Another blog post could be entirely devoted to debunking each individual supporter, so take an example. One of Never Again for Anyone’s national endorsers is the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. According to the website of MXGM, “Malcolm X exposes the intellectual and legal illegitimacy of an Israeli Zionism operating through camouflage and dollarism that ultimately serves to undermine the self-determination of Afrikan and Arab peoples.”
This statement is laughably absurd. Any organization claiming to promote the interest of “Afrikan” and Arab people ought to support the country that is home to more than 3 million Jews from Arab and African lands and their descendants who were expelled or fled from neighboring countries. This contradiction in the very mission statement of one of MXGM’s initiatives shines a cold hard light on the true motivation of their position: anti-Semitism. Though this term is tossed around with abandon in today’s media climate, it could not be more appropriate than here, when applied to an organization that clearly does not consider Jews from Arab and African countries to be “people.”
My (perhaps misplaced) optimism allows me to believe that most of the participants in this event endorse the slander of Israel and its undergirding anti-Semitism out of mere thoughtlessness. Philosopher Hannah Arendt may have been an early skeptic of Israel and critic of the Eichmann trial, but I do believe she got at least one thing right: the root of most common instances of evil is planted in thoughtlessness.
Rutgers students should think carefully before lending their endorsement to this event, in person or online, by word or by deed, publicly or privately, personally or vicariously.
“Never Again for Anyone” is not about peace. It is about annihilation.
It is not about reconciliation. It is about hate.
It is not about truth. It is about pernicious falsehood.
It is not for Jews. It is against Jews. It is not for Palestinians. It is against a peaceful solution.
It is not about freedom. It is about malice, corruption, and a vicious lie perpetuated for far too long.