Holocaust DenialI am chairing a meeting for Ward Churchill at the Brecht Forum on Thursday, Sept. 10th, 7:30pm (122 W. 21st St., 10th fl., 212-242-4201), where he will be speaking about his new book "A Little Matter of Genocide." This book has more than academic interest to me since I have had some exposure both to neo-fascist holocaust denial and Zionist "exclusionism" on the Internet lately. Both these topics are of central concern to Churchill, an American Indian scholar and activist. Churchill's goal is to show that the genocide against the American Indian and the Jew is rooted in the profit-driven worlds of American "manifest destiny" and Nazi "lebensraum." It is no accident that, according to historian John Toland, Hitler often told people that his model for Nazi Germany was the US policy toward the American Indian in the 19th century.
Jim Craven, a economics professor at Clark College in Washington State, brought this book to my attention. The questions that the book raises are of utmost concern to Jim as well. He is enrolled in the Blackfoot nation and has served on a tribunal investigating American Indian residential schools in Canada. Scholar Roland Chrisjohn, a member of the Iroquois confederacy, has said, "Residential schools were one of many attempts at the genocide of the Aboriginal Peoples inhabiting the area now commonly called Canada. Initially, the goal of obliterating these peoples was connected with stealing what they owned (the land, the sky, the waters, and their lives, and all that these encompassed); and although this connection persists, present-day acts and policies of genocide are also connected with the hypocritical, legal and self-delusion need on the part of the perpetrators to conceal what they did and what they continue to do."
What's also interesting is that Craven, like Churchill, is also extremely knowledgeable about the Nazi holocaust. When I reported to the PEN-L (Progressive Economists) mailing-list that I had found Churchill's book and the Nizkor web-site to be useful places for rebuttals to the holocaust deniers, he commented:
"A la Louis' endorsement of the Nizkor Project, I would also endorse all to visit and read there. Among many things one will find the Red and Blue Book series of Nuremberg Trial documents and transcripts well worth reading. I use this source continually with reference to work I do on the question of Genocide against Indians and the parallels with the most well-known of the Holocausts--by the Nazis.
"The Opening arguments of Justice Jackson are well worth reading as well as the transcripts of the examinations/cross-examinations of those being tried at Nuremberg. The case of Julius Streicher is particularly noteworthy and I must admit, that when I am depressed or just frustrated with teaching or whatever, I go home and put on an old U.S. Army Signal Corps Film I have on tape showing the actual hangings of those sentenced to death at Nuremberg--it just gives me a real lift, much better than Prozac could ever do."
The other tie-in to the Nazi holocaust that Jim does not mention is that he approaches it not only from an American Indian standpoint, but also from the standpoint of somebody who has connections to Judaism. His very own mother, who was born to Blackfoot parents in Fort Hall, Pocatello, Idaho, was adopted by a Jewish family as a baby and raised in reform Judaism. His mother's step-parents, like his father's parents, were left-wingers as well. They transmitted these beliefs to him. Not only is he knowledgeable about Blackfoot spiritual and ethical beliefs, he is more knowledgeable about Jewish ethical teachings than the average Jew, including me.
One belief that he shares with his late mother is that it goes AGAINST Judaism to care more about attacks on the Jewish people than about other peoples. This sort of exclusivism was antithetical to the type of reform Judaism his mother was brought up to respect. This branch of Judaism has always been strongly identified with the European Enlightenment and has often taken strong stands against racism of any sort, including Jewish racism.
In recent weeks I have been in a battle with "left-wing" holocaust deniers on the Internet newsgroup alt.politics.socialism.trotsky. Their tactic is to use anti-Zionist rhetoric in order to make their neo-Fascist agenda more palatable. They begin their posts with some sort of critique of Israeli complicity with apartheid or imperialist crimes and then proceed to question whether Jews died in gas chambers. The Zyklon-B was not used to kill people, they argue, but for delousing.
Jim Craven explained to PEN-L how these sorts of neo-fascists in "left" covering operate:
"... a 'leftist' holocaust denier is an oxymoron; there is simply no such thing. No true leftist could ever deny that the Holocaust against Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Slavic Peoples and others in Conquered Territories, POWs etc. occurred.
"There are some populists who appear anti-capitalist and nominally appear 'leftist'--as did the Brownshits or S.A. of the Nazis--who are anti-Semites, holocaust deniers etc. They are 'leftists' only on the most superficial levels.
"There are some leftists, and I am one of them, who believe that 'The Holocaust' has been cynically and abusively used/misused to promote Zionism or to deflect any criticisms of Israel, but they would also argue, as do I, that for example speaking only of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, is a desecration of the Jewish as well as non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust (after-all, so many Jews were slaughtered because of articifial and deadly divisions between Jews and non-Jews--and their natural allies--who could have formed effective united fronts against fascism had both Jews and non-Jews not allowed historical divisions and forms of mistrust to be used and manipulated) employed for cynical and manipulative purposes. There are some leftists who also argue, as do I, that Zionism is to real Judaism what the Crusades were to real Christianity or what the Taliban or House of Saud are to real Islam.
"But no true 'leftist' can ever promote racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, national chauvinism, Holocaust denials, Zionism, ultra-sectarian/bigoted Christianity or some other religion, imperialism, fascism etc etc."
In order to answer the "leftist" holocaust deniers, I made frequent trips to www.nizkor.org, the website of NIZKOR, a group dedicated to exposing holocaust denial. Eventually the people who maintain this site got word that holocaust deniers were spreading their poison on the alt.politics.socialism.trotsky newsgroup and showed up themselves. They did an excellent job refuting the neo-Fascists and invited me to join their mailing-list.
It was on this mailing-list that I discovered the unfortunate tendency in the Jewish and Zionist world to make the holocaust something "exclusive." When I showed up on the list I explained that holocaust deniers were using the crimes of the Israeli state as a pretext to apologize for the crimes of Adolph Hitler. This set off a firestorm of controversy.
>From the Zionists on this mailing-list, I heard that FDR did not neglect to bomb the railroad tracks to Auschwitz, an act that could have saved thousands of Jewish lives. This was just left-wing propaganda. I also learned that Ariel Sharon had nothing to do with the massacre of Palestinian women and children at Sabra and Shatila. I was also told that I was a troll for even suggesting that these things might be true.
In my parting words to the Nizkor mailing-list I said the following:
Holocaust deniers try to make their message palatable to left-wing audiences by wrapping themselves in anti-Zionist rhetoric. Jews who deny that Ariel Sharon had responsibility for the massacre at Sabra-Shatila weaken the moral authority that is needed to challenge the neo-Nazis. In order to challenge the lies of Faurisson and company, we have to maintain the highest scruples when it comes to our own history and the history of oppression in general. It would be sheer hypocrisy if we swept uncomfortable facts under the rug. David Stannard, a Jew and author of "American Holocaust", a book about the genocide of the American Indian, points out the following in his preface to Ward Churchill's "A Little Matter of Genocide":
"But remembering the Holocaust does remain necessary--as it should. So, apparently, do claims for the historically unrivaled magnitude of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust--which should not. Indeed, so insistent is Israel on retaining its 'official story' of the Holocaust that for decades now some of the most outstanding works of scholarship on Jewish history and politics--including volumes by Hannah Arendt and even Raul Hilbert's monumental study, 'The Destruction of the European Jews'--have not been translated into Hebrew. The reason: they critically discuss the behavior of certain Jews in Europe during the years of Nazi rule, and such criticism can not be tolerated by the Israeli theocracy. As Segev notes, in Israel today the Holocaust, by one measure at least, has an even higher status than religion, since the maximum legal penalty for denying the existence of God is one year in prison, while the punishment for denying the existence of the Holocaust is up to five years imprisonment.
"Nor can the existence of OTHER genocides be acknowledged by Israeli officialdom. Thus, the government of Israel has banned from Israeli television a documentary film on the early twentieth-century Turkish genocide against the Armenians, and it has prohibited the Israeli Education Ministry from introducing the story of the Armenian genocide into high school curricula. Moreover, in the United States, Israeli officials of the Foreign Office have joined hands with the government of Turkey in blocking Congressional efforts to acknowledge the Armenian genocide with an official Armenian day of remembrance."