Europe’s Jews And The Future They Face – An Interview With Dr. Clemens Heni
The recent news out of Europe has been quite disturbing. First on March 19, 2012, the world was stunned by the murders in Toulouse, France of a Rabbi and three young Jewish children by al-Qaeda wannabe, Mohammed Merah. This vicious crime was followed by weeks of random attacks on Jews in various French cities, including 90 anti-Semitic incidents during the first 10 days after Merah’s slaughter of innocents. Then yesterday, June 13, 2012, a 16 year old Jewish student in Norway was literally branded with a red hot coin by a fellow student who hated the victim because he was Jewish and his father was Israeli.
One of the rallying cries of the new wave of anti-Semitism in Europe is to claim that their behavior is just legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies. Certainly, branding a boy because his father is from Israel puts a dramatic end to that particular lie. It is all simply Jew hate and no amount of obfuscation will disguise the fact that there is a major increase in violence against Jews taking place in every corner of Europe.
This is posing a serious moral dilemma for the people of Europe; especially among those who seek to prevent these crimes against humanity and put an end to anti-Semitism. To get to the truth and hear the facts directly from a European citizen who is an acknowledged expert on these issues, we sat down with Dr. Clemens Heni for an in-depth interview.
Dr. Heni is a political scientist, author and public intellectual. He studied history, philosophy, cultural studies, and political science at the Universities of Tuebingen, Bremen, Berlin (Germany), and Innsbruck (Austria). He received a B.A. in political science in 1995, a B.A. in cultural studies in 1996, a M.A. in political science in 1999, and a Ph.D. in political science in 2006. From September 2008 until August 2009, Dr. Heni was a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Yale University.
His main fields of research are anti-Semitism, German history and German society, criticism of ideology (anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, anti-Semitism, Islamic Jihad), right-wing extremism, nationalism, the Holocaust and Shoah remembrance.
Dr. Heni is a founder of The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. This important institution is dedicated to “conducting high-profile scholarly research without being stuck in the ivory towers of academia.” Dr. Heni is a highly respected and widely published authority on anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and Holocaust revisionism. He was a strong critic of The Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, which many people feel is an attempt by Eastern European leader’s to diminish the Holocaust. This takes us to my first question, so let us begin…
You have been an outspoken critic of The Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, which attempts to redefine the Holocaust. Supporters of this document claim there is no difference between the Communist purges and mass murders of the 20th century and the Holocaust. Many respected scholars and supporters of the historical narrative, feel this Declaration is an attempt to diminish the severity of the Holocaust and change the world’s perception of the Holocaust as a unique event of horrifying proportions. In what should be considered one of the 20th century’s most infamous quotes, German philosopher Martin Heidegger said, “Agriculture is now a motorized food industry, the same thing in its essence as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and the extermination camps.” This vile quote indicates the way many of Europe’s so called “thinkers” are attempting to redefine the Holocaust as just another example of modern business, politics and warfare. They claim that the Holocaust is being overemphasized in its importance, exaggerated to gain sympathy for the Jews and that it is not an unprecedented event in the annals of human history.
Do you feel that there is an effort in Europe to slowly and steadily re-define the Holocaust and eventually erase as much public awareness about the Holocaust as possible? Who is responsible for what appears to be a concentrated attempt to rewrite the narrative of the most severe and horrifying act of racial genocide in human history?
It is indeed very important to discuss the dangerous impact of the Prague Declaration. This declaration was adopted in June 2008 by politicians and political activists, including Vaclav Havel and Joachim Gauck; this declaration equates National Socialism and the Holocaust with the crimes of Stalinism and communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Ironically, like authoritarian regimes, the undersigners want to “overhaul textbooks” and “warn” pupils and students of “communism” in the “same way” we warn of National Socialism. Therefore, students and pupils must think that something similar to the Shoah happened in Eastern Europe under Stalin and other leaders. In fact, it was the Red Army of the Soviet Union which liberated Auschwitz concentration camp and the extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945. As a result, we have celebrated Holocaust remembrance day on that date for many years. The Prague Declaration, on the other side, prefers a European wide remembrance day, August 23. On that day in 1939, the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty was signed. Revisionists even declare that the outbreak of the Second World War was not Germany’s crime alone, rather that of both the Germans and the Soviet Union. This is of course not the case.
Without the heroic help and fight of the Red Army Europe would be Nazi until today. There would not be a Poland, no Lithuania, no Latvia, no Ukraine, no Belarus, no Czech Republic and so on, if the Red Army had not fought the Germans. The Red Army had huge losses fighting the Wehrmacht. German President Gauck is a leading voice in downplaying the Holocaust, was an author of the infamous “Black Book of Communism” in 1998 (German edition), which said that communism was worse than Nazism and the Shoah.
This is just one form of distorting the Holocaust. In recent years Germany witnessed campaigns which portrayed the expulsion of Germans from the East after the surrender of Nazi Germany as “Holocaust of expulsion,” others say that the mostly British Bomb War against Nazi Germany was a “bomb Holocaust.” Such projection of guilt, to apply the terminology of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, is a typical element of so called secondary antisemitism. Secondary antisemitism is antisemitism because of and after Auschwitz, a term from Peter Schönbach, a co-worker of philosopher Theodor W. Adorno. Germans are of course eager to portray the Soviet Union and communism as equally evil as Nazi Germany, because this trivializes the German guilt for World War II and the Holocaust.
British-American historian Robert Conquest (born 1917) has been published in Germany in right-wing extremist publishing houses and says that the famine in Ukraine in 1932/33 was a “Holocaust.” This is the subtitle of one of his books in German in 1988. This is a soft-core denial of the Shoah. There was never the attempt to kill Ukrainians as Ukrainians. The Holocaust, though, was an unprecedented crime, because never before and never since was there the attempt by a state or a regime to kill every single member of a specific ethnic group. I am curious, then, why he has been included in 2011 in a strange and problematic book about “Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide,” written by Jewish Studies scholar Steven L. Jacobs from Alabama and historian Paul R. Bartrop from Australia.
Bestseller and prize-winning American historian Timothy Snyder published his widely discussed study “Bloodlands” in 2010. He creates a fantasy topography ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and Eastern Poland. He, too, equates Hitler and Stalin and denies that the Holocaust was a specific crime. For him it was a crime like political crimes of the Soviet Union, including the hunger crisis in Ukraine.
It is equally important to analyze German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who was an antisemite in various forms. He was not just a member of the Nazi party (NSDAP), his philosophy introduced National Socialism into philosophical thinking, as French philosopher Emmanuel Faye argued convincingly a few years ago in an important study. I would say that Heidegger is the godfather of many kinds of Holocaust distortions since 1949 when he equated motorized agriculture with the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Sobibor and other places of extermination via gas.
It is not just a German or European phenomenon to distort the Shoah. American anthropologist Ward Churchill, who was a professor in Boulder, Colorado, says that there was a “Holocaust” in America against the native population – for over 500 years, starting in 1492, when Columbus arrived in “West India.” Churchill is not just an anti-American activist, he is also an antisemite, when he uses the term Holocaust for the horrible fate of Native Americans. Worse, shortly after 9/11, he said the victims of the World Trade Center were “little Eichmann’s,” because they kept world capitalism alive.
The re-definition of the Holocaust relates closely to what I already said. In addition, I would like to point to a tremendously important study of Jewish Studies scholar Alvin Rosenfeld from 2011, his book entitled “The End of the Holocaust.” He argues vehemently against the use of the Holocaust for political purposes, be it people who use Holocaust victim Anne Frank for campaigns against racism and pro-mankind, or be it Palestinians who equate their situation with that one of young Anne in the occupied Netherlands or in the KZ Bergen-Belsen. I think scholars and the public should read Rosenfeld’s book, it is an eye-opener about the future of Holocaust remembrance. Most recently American scholar in English literature Edward Alexander wrote to me and pointed to the importance of Rosenfeld’s study. Alexander, too, is worried about the huge amount of Holocaust distorting literature on the one side, and incitement to genocide against Israel on the other side.
I would say quite often Holocaust distortion and the rejection of the uniqueness of the Holocaust go hand in hand with anti-Zionist activism. This could be shown, pars pro toto, in the work of well known British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. In 1989 he published a study about “Modernity and the Holocaust.” He dealt with modern aspects of bureaucracy, or, as he frames it, “gardening.” He ignores the German specificity and rejects that the Holocaust aimed at Jews exclusively. He accuses Israel of using the Holocaust for political purposes in this study (Zygmunt Bauman wrote: “The Jewish state tried to employ the tragic memories as the certificate of its political legitimacy, a safe-conduct pass for its past and future policies, and above all as the advance payment for the injustices it might itself commit.”) In 2011 he compared the anti-terror fence in Israel with the Warsaw ghetto, a hardcore antisemitic slur. Such comparison distorts history and attacks Israel. Bauman is still very much respected, after his antisemitic remark in 2011 he was invited to the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) in March 2012. This is how scholarship works: antisemitism goes unchallenged.
Others, like Australian historian Dirk A. Moses, German historian Jürgen Zimmerer, among many others follow the ideology of the relationship of colonialism and National Socialism. They insinuate that colonial wars like that in German South-West Africa (today: Namibia) in 1904–1907 were genocidal and a forerunner of the Shoah. Particularly Zimmerer follows this approach and published a collection of his essays recently under the telling title “From Windhoek to Auschwitz?” He distorts the facts: African history is far from being a forerunner of German history, it has a history of itself, as historian Jakob Zollmann, who did research for his doctoral dissertation in Namibia, pointed out. German South-West Africa and its colonial wars rather parallel other colonial wars like the Spanish-Cuban War or the American-Philippine War, as other critics have argued. Furthermore, antisemitism is completely ignored in its genocidal drive, based on world conspiracy theories, blood libels, and many other components. Racism against blacks is based on a hierarchy, on suppression and exploitation, but never on the killing of an entire people just because that people existed. There is still much to be done to explain to the public and to scholars why the Holocaust was unique and not just a genocide among others. To distort this history, though, is a core element of post-colonial historiography and anti-Zionist activists alike.
You live in close proximity to France, where there have been some truly alarming attacks on Jews in recent weeks. First, the murders in Toulouse and in the past few days, a wave of attacks on Jews who were simply walking down the street in their own communities. Just today, on June 13. 2012, there was attack in Norway on a 16 year old Jewish schoolboy, who was actually branded with a red hot coin by a classmate. This attack was the culmination of 2 full years of abuse, much of which had been reported to the police and school authorities. The child’s family has stated that there was no help at all from the authorities or any effort to protect the boy, who was being persecuted because he was Jewish and his father was Israeli. Dr. Shimon Samuels, head of the Wiesenthal Center’s division of international affairs, noted that “the boy has stated that he must stay clear of Norwegian and Muslim children and hide his parentage to avoid continued anti-Semitic attacks.“ Samuel added that “these young school hatemongers point to a new generation of Breivik-style racists for Norway’s future. You have a responsibility to protect every threatened child and, especially, this victim targeted simply for being Jewish.”
How dangerous has Europe become for Jews? Is it true that Jews are at risk from attack if they even wear a Kippah (Yarmulke) in public and that it has become necessary for personal safety to hide the fact that you are Jewish in many towns and cities across Europe? Is there really a need for armed guards at every Synagogue, Temple, Jewish School and Jewish owned business in most of Europe?
The French murder was indeed shocking. In Germany, though, historian Wolfgang Benz, a long-time director (1990–2011) of the Center for Research of Antisemitism (ZfA) in Berlin, said that he does not see an increase in antisemitism. He was not shocked about that anti-Jewish murder. Worse, in November 2010 he gave a friendly interview to Islamist homepage Muslim-Markt, a leading German page which promotes the boycott of Israel. Remember: Benz is a highly respected scholar, even in the US and Israel. Many people do not know what he has done in recent years in Germany. He is responsible for downplaying antisemitism and for equating antisemitism with “Islamophobia.” I published about him and many aspects of German Islamic Studies in my recent book “Schadenfreude. Islamic Studies and Antisemitism after 9/11” (in German, 410 pages, 2011).
In Germany every Jewish kindergarden, synagogue, and Jewish community center need police protection. This is not the case in all European countries, though I have no overview on all countries. Neo-Nazis are still besmearing Jewish cemeteries in Germany, because just a few Jewish cemeteries are guarded by the police. The neo-Nazis can’t stand the very remembrance of Jews. In cities in Germany it is indeed not easily possible to wear a Kippah. We had attacks on Jews wearing a Kippah in Berlin. If you show an Israeli flag in public, depending on your neighborhood, you get massive problems, particularly in times of demonstrations. In 2009 the police confiscated two Israeli flags displayed in a student apartment, because an angry and aggressive Muslim crowd urged the police to do so. That rally was guarded by the Turkish Islamist organization Milli Görüs. Scandinavia, like Norway or Sweden, has become a very dangerous place for Jews. We know of statements from Jews in Sweden and the Netherlands that they see no future for them in these countries, due to mostly (young) Muslim antisemites.
Much has been made of the recent, massive Muslim immigration to Europe and how it relates to an increase of hate and violence against the Jewish population.
Is there a direct relationship between Islamic immigration and the increase of violence and hatred towards Jews? Just how severe and widespread is Muslim Anti-Semitism in Europe today? How much of the problem is doctrinal vis-à-vis the Qur’an and other Islamic Holy Texts and how much of it is political vis-à-vis Palestine? Is Palestine really the issue or is it just being used as a cover for 1400 years of Islam’s hateful preaching against the Jewish people?
Most youngsters in the streets of Berlin or Malmö (Sweden) do not necessarily know the Quran literally, although many of them might have heard anti-Jewish Suras. Old religious texts always depend on interpretation, the Christian bible, too, has antisemitic slurs, but not all Christians still believe them. The same holds for the Quran. It is crucial to distinguish between Islam and Islamism. According to historian of antisemitism Robert S. Wistrich, Jews had a much more difficult time in the Middle Ages under Christian Europe compared with their situation under Islam. This is no denial of the fact that the Dhimmi-status of Jews and Christians was horrible. But early Islam did not see Jews as theological rival, contrary to Christianity, which struggles until today with the Jews, who reject Jesus as Messiah.
Today’s Muslim antisemitism and Jew-hatred is political and an expression of Islamism. Islamism is politicized Islam, a phenomenon we know since the 19th century in particular. Many aspects of antisemitism like the Blood libel or conspiracy theories came from Europe, as Wistrich or Islamic Studies scholar Daniel Pipes emphasizes. Pipes is among the leading voices worldwide when it comes to analyzing the threat of Islamism. He has a clear message: “radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution.” Indeed we know of Muslim scholars and authors who reject Sharia, antisemitism and violence and who support Israel. We know of small but very important groups like the British Muslims for Israel. Pipes wrote, for example, about the unimportance of Jerusalem for the history of Islam. However, Jerusalem has become a huge topic for Islamists in order to fight Israel. Remember the so called Arab spring: leading Sunni Islamist Yusuf al-Qaradawi from Qatar came to Cairo for the first time in over 30 years and spoke to the masses at Tahrir Square in mid February 2011. He called for the “liberation of Jerusalem,” read: the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
We have heard many of the leaders of European countries, especially in left leaning, progressive governments, constantly attack Israel. We have read examples, such as the Mayor of Malmo, Sweden suggesting that Jews have only themselves to blame and they should either stop acting so obviously Jewish or consider leaving the country of Sweden.
Are the politicians of Europe simply pandering to their support base or are they espousing an ideological hatred of Jews and Israel? Who are some of the most outspoken examples of those who express an anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli sentiment among Europe’s political elite? Is agitating against the Jews of Europe now seen as a viable political tool to be used to attain power?
I think attacking Israel is not a tool for attaining power, it is a resentment in itself. This year, the head of the German Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, compared Israel with South African apartheid after a visit in the city of Hebron. The Defense minister in Austria, Norbert Darabos, also a Social Democrat, called Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman “unbearable.” Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said to US President Obama that he can’t stand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama, who did not know that journalists listened to his conversation with Sarkozy, just said that he had to deal with him all day long, but Obama did not reject the anti-Israel slur of Sarkozy. This was a private conversation so it was not meant to be a tool for a political campaign, it was rather their honest view of Bibi, I think.
Generally, though, I would say that scholars, journalists, authors, public intellectuals and activists are far more outspoken anti-Israel than politicians. For example, German Nobel Prize Laureate Günter Grass said in a widely discussed and disseminated poem in April 2012 that “Israel is a threat to world peace.” He ignored the Iranian threat and defamed Jews and their state, which is all the more remarkable because Grass was an active member of the Schutzstaffel (SS) at the age of 17 and lied to the public until 2006 (otherwise he would never have been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1999). Grass isn’t just a symbol of German antisemitism, he was followed by many leading figures of the cultural elite in Germany.
Several prominent politicians, writers and scholars have stated that there is little or no difference between many of the incredibly hostile, anti-Israeli comments and open Anti-Semitism. In a ground breaking article, Natan Sharansky came up with a very clear and specific way to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and Jew hate. He called it the “3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization.” He expressed quite strongly that people who consistently demonize Jews and Israel, people who consistently express double standards for acceptable behavior and condemn Israel while ignoring the same behavior from other countries and people who consistently seek to delegitimatize Israel as the Nation of the Jewish people, are behaving in a manner the conforms with the definition of Anti-Semitism.
Is this a fair definition and is the constant condemnation of Israel part of a new wave of hatred for the Jewish people and their Nation of Israel?
I know Sharansky’s 3D-Test and listened to him when he spoke to the Global Forum for Combating antisemitism a few years ago in Jerusalem. His 3D-Test is correct. Double Standard, for example, can be seen all over when it comes to Israel. If we compare human rights abuses in Sri Linka, mass murder in Sri Lanka, human rights abuses in China or in Iran, to name a few examples, it becomes crystal clear that Israel is seen in a different way, although Israel is a safe haven for homosexuals, while they are hanged in Iran. Even if we would accept that Israel makes mistakes as every country or government makes mistakes, it should be treated as every other country, but it is not. Israel is the only country in the UN who’s very existence is not accepted by many member states and who received death threats from Iranian President Ahmadinejad. This is unbelievable.
We are constantly exposed to a litany of criticism of Israel for declaring itself the Nation of the Jewish people. Israel is accused of advocating Apartheid and even condemned as the New Nazis for being the Nation of the Jewish people.
Why do you think people are so quick to condemn Israel for its national aspirations yet they are totally willing to accept 57 Islamic nations? Why is Europe so unwilling to support Jewish nationalism yet they welcome and support Islamic nationalism?
This is a good question. It has to do with a shift of paradigm. Let me first point to nationalism in Germany today and then to the rather post-national situation in Europe in general. The nation-state is a product of Europe, result of the peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Today, however, Europe has shifted towards a post-national or post-nation-state paradigm, at least when it comes to political decisions – in terms of political culture national paradigms still predominate, as we can see in pretty bad German nationalism during soccer events like the current European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. While waving the German flag black-red-gold was a symbol of right-wing extremists since the 1970s or before, the German flag and being proud of Germany has become mainstream since the reunification of Germany in 1990 and in particular after the Soccer World Championship in 2006, which was held in Germany. Since then campaigns for the German colors are launched by the mass media, and by politicians and the elites. I mention this because there is a close relationship between the rejection or downplaying of the remembrance of the Shoah and the resurrection of German pride. We could see this in 2006 and ever since by statements of leading liberal journalists like Matthias Matussek who wrote a book about being proud of Germany and that he does not “think often about the Holocaust.” I called this in 2006 “the national a priori.” This analysis still holds true.
Patriotism in Germany fuels secondary antisemitism. We should also remember the leading German intellectual, Jürgen Habermas, who rejected the War on Iraq in 2003 (alongside with French philosopher Jacques Derrida) and spoke for the German government and public at large. Habermas had no problem embracing Iran the year before, and he welcomed the “return of religion,” particularly when dealing with Islam and Christianity (the current Pope is German).
On the other side, and this is equally important to analyze, we are facing the above mentioned post-national European ideology. Nation-states are seen as old fashioned and rather dangerous, exclusive and racist. Nazi Germany is seen as the ultimate proof that nation-states led to horrible regimes. In fact, though, Nazi Germany was far from a Western nation-state like France, the UK or the US.
Of course Europe has no problem in protecting its entity from many thousands of refugees who arrive at their southern borders near Italy and Spain, for example. Europe pretends to have learned the lesson from the Second World War and the Holocaust: universalism and cosmopolitanism and no more nation-states. Israel, though, is a nation-state. It needs to be a Jewish state, because Jews had no protection vis-à-vis antisemitism since the late 19th century (to take this date, we could go back in history) and because Jews once had a kingdom and homeland in Israel.
Let me turn to Israeli historian Yoram Hazony from the Shalem Center. He published two articles in 2010 where he dealt with Israel, Europe, and the nation-state. Here is what he says about the two competing paradigms: “Paradigm A: Auschwitz represents the unspeakable horror of Jewish women and men standing empty-handed and naked, watching their children die for want of a rifle with which to protect them.
Paradigm B: Auschwitz represents the unspeakable horror of German soldiers using force against others, backed by nothing but their own government’s views as to their national rights and interests.”
I think Hazony points to a very important aspect of our debate about Israel and the Holocaust. Those who see the anti-Jewish dimension of the Shoah can follow paradigm A and see the need for a strong Jewish state to protect the Jews. Others, and this is the majority in Europe, do not focus primarily on the Jews when dealing with National Socialism and the Second World War. They reject a Jewish nation-state. It is about “Never again” – most Germans and Europeans say “Never again war,” and they ignore (if not embrace) Islamism and the Iranian threat. The other “Never again” means: Never again Fascism or National Socialism, and “Never again” a world without protection for Jews.
Hazony also points to the hypocrisy of Europeans because they do not ask the reality of Muslim or Arab nation-states, this was also your important question. One can wonder, why? Well, Hazony says that Europeans do not take Muslims or Arabs seriously, they are seen like children. As soon as they achieve maturity they will recognize that the nation-state is outdated. This argumentation is highly problematic and I deal with it in my forthcoming book. I also point to Western scholars who reject the Jewish character of Israel, like Judith Butler. She is in favor of a bi-national state, and follows philosopher Hannah Arendt or Butler’s friend Sheyla Benhabib from Yale, who attacked Israel harshly in 2010, for example. Butler is a very aggressive scholar and promotes the “Israel=Apartheid” agitation. Shockingly, she will be awarded the Adorno Prize in the city of Frankfurt, Germany, on September 11, 2012. This is the birthday of philosopher Adorno in 1903, but Butler will rather think of 9/11. It is a symbol of European and German antisemitism that someone like Butler, who is known worldwide for her hatred of the Jewish state of Israel, will be awarded a highly respected prize. I still hope this will be prohibited. Therefore we need international support.
Several well known European personalities and politicians have openly stated that they think Israel was a mistake and it should be dissolved as a nation.
Do you foresee a future where there will be an large scale, organized political movement in Europe to completely ostracize, isolate and boycott Israel so that it will no longer able to function as a nation? Do people in Europe really regret the re-establishment of Israel in 1948 and see it as one of the greatest mistakes of the 20th Century?
I already mentioned a few outstanding examples. I would add British historian Tony Judt, who died in 2010, and who simply wrote in 2003 “Israel is bad for the Jews.” Judt was a superstar in historiography and still is widely recognized as a star, despite (or because?) his anti-Israeli stand and his support for problematic authors like Edward Said. I think your question illustrates a crucial point: many Europeans indeed regret the very establishment of Israel, at least the fact that Israel is a Jewish state. Tricky anti-Zionists, though, pretend to be not anti-Israel, because they still want an Israel, but not a Jewish Israel.
What do you think will be the future for the Jewish people in Europe. Is Europe or even the entire world heading for another Holocaust if things continue this way? Is there any hope for Jews in Europe or is the time rapidly approaching that Israel will be the last safe haven on earth for the Jewish people?
We are facing genocidal threats from Iran, and parts of the Arab world. I already mentioned Ahmadinejad or al-Qaradawi. In Germany we faced hundreds Facebook-users from mostly German-Turkish origin who celebrated Hitler and the Holocaust publicly on their Facebook accounts in the internet, after the interception of the Gaza flotilla on May 31, 2010. This was unprecedented to that time, even neo-Nazis do not dare to publicly endorse the killing of Jews. Those Muslims posted their real names and pictures, too, while celebrating the Holocaust. Those Muslim extremists did not even deny the Holocaust, but called for another one. We have seen the same in Egypt TV, and on Al-Jazeera TV, too, where in 2009 al-Qaradawi thanked Hitler for having punished the Jews. These TV shows are screened in Germany and in Europe, too. We faced some of the most antisemitic rallies in recent decades in January 2009, at time of the Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza War.
However, since the Second Intifada and since 9/11 we have much more outspoken pro-Israel activities in Europe and Germany, too. The general climate for Jews seems to be worse than in the 1990s, but I am unable to predict the future. Germany, for example, has a kind of revival of Jewish culture, thanks to the Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union. As mentioned the situation for Jews in Sweden, Norway, or the Netherlands is dramatic. As long as antisemitism (veiled as anti-Zionism, for example) prevails in Europe and the elites do not speak out, I dare say that the situation will worsen.
Some of the critics of Holocaust remembrance have said that the time has come to forget the past. Others have said that it is unfair to place a ‘burden of guilt” on generations of Europeans who were not alive at the time of the Holocaust. Some of the more extreme critics and Holocaust deniers have stated that the Jews were in league with Hitler in order to gain money and sympathy for creating a Jewish nation of Israel.
What would you, as a human being and as an outspoken opponent of Jew hate, like to say to the people who make these comments and claims?
In Germany we even have pro-Israel authors like best-selling author Henryk Broder, who promotes “Forget Auschwitz,” the title of one of his latest books in 2012. He really believes that there is too much Holocaust remembrance in Germany. This is far from real, according to opinion polls 20% of people from 20–30 have never heard of Auschwitz. As I tried to show in this interview, even and particular scholars are distorting history and try to rewrite the Second World War and the Shoah.
The universalization of the Holocaust is widespread. Many peoples want to compare their history to that of the Shoah, regardless how absurd this may ever be. The best example is of course the Palestinian propaganda for the “Naqba.” They equate the departure of several hundred thousand Arabs from Israel in 1948 with the Holocaust. In fact, as Islamic Studies scholar Efraim Karsh has shown, most of these Arabs have been forced by the Arab states surrounding Israel to leave the Jewish state, because remaining there would have been a signal to accept a Jewish state in 1948. Today pro-Palestinian scholars urge the Arab world not to deny the Holocaust, rather to compare it with their own history. This sounds much better to European and Western ears, but in fact it is just the move from hard-core to soft-core denial of the Shoah.
The failure of scholarship in Germany and abroad when it comes to the analysis of the uniqueness of the Holocaust and to anti-Zionist antisemitism, is obvious. I try to counter this failure and created the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA) in 2011. We invite scholars, students, authors, intellectuals, and the public to join our cause. Research on antisemitism is tremendously important to counter the threats Jews and the Jewish state of Israel are facing, over 67 years after the Shoah. So many scholars in the field mourn the dead Jews and ignore the living Jews. We need both: an accurate remembrance of the Shoah as well as support for the living Jews inside and outside of Israel. Antisemitism or Jew-hatred is a specific phenomenon and not just another form of racism, prejudice or discrimination. As I said in my first international lecture in English at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in December 2002: Germans have a predilection for dead Jews. They are reluctant to support living Jews. I hope there will be a new generation of scholars and activists that will change this paradigm. We need remembrance of the Shoah and support for Zionism.
FINAL COMMENTS BY WOLFF BACHNER:
I would like to thank Dr. Heni for a wonderfully rich and informative interview. He has presented a factual, thoroughly documented and compelling testimony about disturbing state of events in Europe today. Love of country and traditional values have been rejected by multicultural Europe unless they can be used to isolate and punish whomever has been chosen to be the current outsider or “other.”
Jews in Europe are shocked by the current climate in Europe and troubled by the marked increase in Holocaust denial and Holocaust revisionism. They are frightened by the increased defamation and violence that has become a part of their daily lives; from the antisemitic slurs to the cemetery desecration to the constant assault on the legitimacy of Jewish Israel and Zionism. They are forced to live with a threat of attack and murder hanging over their heads that has not been seen since the dark days of Hitler’s Germany.
Many of Europe’s Jews appear to be existing in a state of denial. Perhaps they are so shocked that the horrors that led to World War Two may be starting all over again, that they have simply been rendered speechless. For others, there has been a willing rejection of their Jewish identity and even a hope that with such rejection, they would finally be accepted as a European instead of being a Jew who happens to live in Europe.
Most have found it doesn’t work that way. A Jew will always be a Jew and nothing but a Jew, in the narrow minds of those who hate them. No amount of denial and attempting to hide in plain sight, will ever change that. Jews will continue to be outsiders and no amount of denial will save anyone. We all learned that lesson from the Nazis and we must never forget it.
We have come to a crisis point in Europe. Jews are faced with two harsh realities. Either to hang on and hope for the best or to give up the home of a lifetime and move to Israel. The choices they make will be influenced by the events of the future and by personal decisions that could very well end up being a matter of life or death. We can only hope and pray that the world regains its sanity before the past repeats itself in a most terrible manner.
It should also be stated that when the Jewish people say “Never Again”, they should be speaking for every one of us of every race, culture or religion. It is certainly time for the human race to evolve past Jew hate and the murder of innocents. The price has been paid by millions and one life lost is one life too many.
A FEW WORDS TO AMERICAN READERS:
You may wonder why you should care about any of this if you are an American. I would contend that in our current political climate, the crisis in Europe is of paramount importance.
On a moral and ethical level, America is a trading partner and a political partner of the European Union and a member of NATO. We can not claim to hold a moral high ground and tolerate any form of racism or hatred. We can no longer do business as usual with those who would slander, persecute or kill Jews.
It is also important to realize that there are also historical revisionists right here in America. It was Obama who claimed in 2008 that America was not a Christian nation. He also has claimed, in his much criticized Cairo speech, that America was a Muslim nation, which came as a major surprise to about 295 million of America’s 300 million citizens.
Revisionists are everywhere today; doing everything in their power to promote their particular version of the truth. Our children’s educations have been taken over by men and women who often support progressive politics, espouse a globalist worldview and a “green” agenda. We no longer focus on filling young minds with knowledge. We now set out to”make” them into good citizens who will love the planet, shun the Nation state and support multiculturalism, the new god of the power elite.
History is being rewritten and revised at an incredible pace. Thanks to the internet, news websites and blogging, anyone willing to make the effort can get their own version of events out to the general public, even if it is a case of the truth be damned. The radical bombers of the 1960′s, who tried to blow up the Pentagon, are now consultants to the White House, university professors and recipients of millions of dollars of public grants. Leftists who would have faced charges of treason during the Cold War are now creating government policies.
“The times, they are a changin” and if you don’t stay informed and make every effort to discern the truth, you will be left in the dust. Never forget and never give up. One Holocaust was one too many.