It's clear (to me, at least), that the lack of moderation of antisemitic comments is an important way that antisemitism is being spread today. Vile ideas that should have buried with the Nazis are now published on the websites of respected, leading newspapers and magazines, with no criticism or condemnation ever coming from the writers or editors of these news sources. If David Duke or Louis Farrakhan wanted to publish an op-ed in the New York Times denouncing the Jews, the Times would never print it. Why do they let equivalent words remain in the comments sections?
This issue came up for me today because of a column by Roger Cohen (pictured left). It is not political. It has nothing to do with Israel or with the negotiations with Iran.
Roger Cohen writes movingly today about the book Where the Road From Auschwitz Ends. He ends his essay with these words:
Written with tender precision, “A Brief Stop on the Road From Auschwitz,” recently published in the United States, is the most powerful account I have read of the other death — the death after the camps, the death from damage that proves insuperable, the death that in this case comes 15 years later, in 1960, after electroshock treatment, in a Swedish lake beside a mental hospital. The project was indeed brief.The entire essay is about David Rosenberg, the father of the author, Goran Rosenberg. Contemporary politics are not mentioned. Cohen says nothing about the state of Israel.
Yet among the 109 comments currently posted to the article, quite a few take the opportunity to attack Israel and Jews for not learning the lesson of the Holocaust.
One writer says:
A touching recount of the lingering wounds that must accompany such trauma. Perhaps someday an articulate Palestinian refugee will pen a book describing the enduring psychological and physical wounds the he or she suffered in Israeli prisons or in the aftermath of the cluster bombings of schools and hospitals, or in observing the intentional demolition of his family's home by Israeli soldiers whilst his parents were still inside.Another writer castigates the United States, taking Sweden as an example to be followed (because it was neutral during WWII):
Death comes to us all, and is sometimes a merciful end to suffering. Nothing says we must all be so "heroic" and to slough off the worst torture humans can devise for us.
Sweden was "neutral" in WWII, not because that's what they all wanted. Some, wealthy industrialists, supported Hitler the workers supported his enemies. Swedes opted for a course that would not tear their country apart irreparably. America could learn from that. BTW, it's Göran and Södertalje. Let's try to end America's disdain for foreign languages and our assumption that they don't matter.
Another writer complains that we always hear about the Jews at Auschwitz - how about the non-Jews?
There are so many stories of Jews who were confined in Auschwitz. Such a terrible place for everyone confined there. And so many confined there were non-Jews whose stories have never been told. Why?
Reading the bitter denunciations of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu and Jews (yes, Jews) that appear each day in large numbers among reader comments in this newspaper, I can't help but think that the day when Holocaust memoirs, no matter how beautifully written or evocative of the damage done to the Jewish people during and after the Hitler-time, can have much, if any, real influence or impact is past.This writer received the following response, from another person who thinks that Jews didn't learn the correct lesson from the Holocaust:
It is wrong for you and others to equate my condemnation of the practices of the State of Israel with antisemitism. I am not against Jews, or the existence of the State of Israel. I am against the barbaric treatment of the Palestinians by the State of Israel. It is easy and morally dishonest to brush aside the protests against the actions of the State of Israel as being anti-Jew. The Holocaust is no excuse to treat the Palestinians the way Israel does.Another response is even more revolting. This author has failed to comprehend that the arrow of time points only one way:
The Holocaust will never be adequate justification for Israel's behavior, today. If fact, that behavior besmirches the very memory of that evil time.Whatever the state of Israel does today cannot "besmirch" the memory of the Holocaust, since the state was founded after the Holocaust.
This writer is confused, and comes close to equating the crimes of the Nazis against the Jews with the actions of the IDF:
I am not Jewish, but the stories of the Holocaust move me to tears and anger. It doesn't matter how many stories of I've heard- each is different, yet each is painfully the same. I feel these same emotions for every story I hear of Palestinian suffering - lives lost, despair and brutality of the IDF. Mr. Netanyahu has it exactly wrong. By showing compassion towards their enemy will Israel keep the Holocaust flame lit. Mr. Netanyahu, himself, diminishes the Holocaust by using it as a defense for the murder of thousands of civilians who pose no real danger and whose only crime is being stuck in an open air prison and not being Jewish.Another righteous soul writes:
From 1950 to 1962 I attended the Fieldston branch of the Ethical Culture Schools which was about 95% Jewish. We even had mandatory Ethics Class taught by a Holocaust Survivor. "Never Again" was a part of life. Being non Jewish and German on my fathers side I couldn't help but feel some guilt even though my father's family had left Germany over 80 years before the rise of Hitler.
Reading this column I couldn't help but think about how years from now my children or grandchildren will be reading about the personal damage caused by the oppression and dehumanization of despised minority. It seems even worse to me that now it is the Jews "Mowing the grass" as they call dropping bombs on Gaza, and not even allowing students to leave to study in America, Israel's biggest supporter.
I always thought "Never Again" was supposed to apply to all oppressed peoples. Obviously I was wrong, at least when we are talking about Israel.He also belongs to the club of those who think that "the Jews" failed to learn the lesson of the Holocaust.
One response to him: "If rockets would be falling on your head or your relatives dying in suicide bombing attacks you would not be comparing Israel to Nazis. Thanks to people like you 'Never Again' will never work."
Another person is annoyed that the tour he took of Auschwitz did not devote enough attention to the death of Maximilian Kolbe:
The holocaust was a terrible thing but I was very disappointed when I visited Auschwitz with a tour group and there was not one mention of St. Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered to die in order to save a Jewish man with a family. The holocaust was horrific but it was not only Jews who were murdered even though they were the majority.Any sentence that starts out "The holocaust was a terrible thing but...." does not end in a good way. As a respondent commented, Jews were the overwhelming majority of those killed at Auschwitz.
They had St. Koble's cell on display with his religious artifacts and I do think it should have been pointed out to our group. He was a courageous man who should have been honored.
A writer from France accuses Roger Cohen of writing about the Holocaust because Israel is once again in the news.
I have nothing against keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, so that "never again" remains front and centre. But I do have a problem with the Holocaust memory being abused for political gain. It seems every time Israel gets itself into hot water, there is a surge in Holocaust writings in the press. Mr. Cohen should not confuse our pledge of "never again" with our acceptance of Israel's transgressions.As I said before, Cohen didn't mention anything about Israel in his essay - this conspiracy exists only in the mind of the author. Fortunately, someone else responded: "Trust me, Mr. Cohen is not an apologist for Israel; this essay has nothing to do with Israel's 'being in hot water.' It is about the half-life left to most survivors."
Another commenter, bizarrely, seems to think that Cohen is opposed to the US negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Although he claims to be an avid reader of Cohen, he doesn't seem to have understood what he said.
I have been an avid reader of Mr. Cohen for quite a long time. But I was aware of the Holocaust before I read one of his column. In fact, as a Vietnam veteran. I actually witnessed a Holocaust many Americans wish to forget about or remain in denial about, namely, how we attempted to commit genocide against the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. I'm still waiting for that column from Mr. Cohen. But Mr. Cohen fails the crucial test to me for being a true and credible public intellectual, that is, using a tragedy merely to manipulate the readers rather than guiding them on the search for the truth. And to be really blunt with you, I grew up in what can only be termed an anti-Semitic family of origin. So I have always been quite sensitive to that issue having grown up around that virus when I criticize one of Mr. Cohen's column. But we have to give - at least for now - diplomacy a chance in our negotiations with Iran. But what really disturbs me about Mr. Cohen's latest column really isn't what he wrote about, it's about what he avoids writing about. That was my main point. He's being intellectually dishonest. And that debases his currency as a public intellectual. But that is his choice.Another writer thinks that Cohen wrote this column about a man who survived the Holocaust in order to deceive his readers about Israel. He accuses him of using the "Auschwitz card." This is among the most vile comments on this article.
This deeply biased commentary should not be left unrefuted. The Palestinians had no role in what Europeans did to the Jews among them, and owe no one anything. Indeed, they are the inhabitants and owners of Palestine and have been for thousands of years. European Jews forced their way onto the land, with the connivance of British imperialists and expelled the Palestinians at gunpoint or worse. They have ever right to our support in their fight to regain at least some of their land. At a minimum we should resist those among us who would give yet more weapons and money to help the Israelis in their oppression of Palestine.And finally, another response (confused, badly written, and conspiracy theory ridden) that traffics in antisemitic tropes:
Cohen knows this only too well and writes about it, but can not refrain from playing the Auschwitz card. Decent Americans should not be taken in by it.
Why is the media not also conducting, distract our attention from contemporary genocides -out sourcing of US jobs, flood of immigrants used as the functional equivalent of US slaves etc, with almost daily rehashes of the "Second Holocaust" that the east European countries and Russia conducted before, during and after WWII that killed another 6 million Jews? Could it be, that again distraction is the fundamental Zionist part of the 1% reason for the continual avalanche of "never forgetting" the Nazis, while to "remember" the radical east European and Russian pogroms and gulag Holocaust would anger potential customers for high profit margin junk, and threaten access to all that now cheap East European labor. Seems it really is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!The Nazis killed 6 million Jews; there was no "Second Holocaust" by the Russians and Eastern European countries that killed another 6 million. What is the "fundamentalist Zionist part of the 1% reason, etc."? Why is the New York Times permitting the publication of such an insane piece of nonsense?