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London, June, 2001, page 268 BOOK REVIEWS
FEW Zionists appreciate the true horror of Auschwitz. The true horror of Auschwitz is not the terrible things that happened to Jews, but the terrible things that happened to anyone. That would be no less true if there had been no other victims, as of course there were. In Denying the Holocaust Deborah Lipstadt, while raising hue and cry against the pamphlets of an obscure intellectual ghetto, flagrantly overlooked the foremost mainstream journal ever to publish a denial of the Holocaust. This was the Journal of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), in which a tenured professor has denied the genocide of the Romanies (Gypsies) in the face of standard claims that they were decimated to about the same extent.
Not the same thing, implied the TLS reviewer of this book, who believes the Gypsies cannot claim their genocide as the climax of centuries of oppression. And indeed it is different, since Gypsies are still defenceless and persecuted -- not to be hallowed with such Uniqueness as might entitle a sacred nation to occupy Canaan and slaughter its children.
In the West Jews are no longer a vulnerable group. They have brains and money and influence, and are shielded against normal criticism by the sentimental and racist notion that a history of savage persecutions has, in their case, been a sanctifying influence. 'The Holocaust is our strength,' intones Elie Wiesel, the high priest of 'Chosen-ness', when really it is his excuse.
According to Finkelstein, the Holocaust is not merely a mystery religion but a billion-dollar industry, largely funded by reparations. The WJC alone holds vast sums due to compensation payments. Yet there were no Holocaust museums back in the 1960s. 'Shoah business' took off only after American Jewish opinion swung behind Israel in the wake of the Six-Day War. Finkelstein interprets this shift as an awakening, not to Israel's vulnerability anti isolation but, ort the contrary, to its emergence as a military power and strategic asset of the United States. The plain facts of Israel's military and diplomatic history be-tween 1948 and 1973 bear him out, though as an explanation it feels incomplete.
Hostile reviews have denied but not refuted two central claims of this book.
This second charge, first laid by Raul Hilberg, has been confirmed by the recent Volcker Commission, which also cleared the Swiss of some slanderous accusations. These banks had already paid up in 1998, stampeded by threatened economic boycotts and terrorised by emotive hullabaloo involving elderly survivors for whom 'time is running out'. But this dwindling group has still not had much cash, as lawyers wrestle over the carve-up. Finkelstein estimates that victims will see no more than $200 million of the $1.25 billion.
Today's Germans do well to compensate anyone whose life was shattered by a past German government, especially if Germany has inherited benefits from slave labour. It is unclear why Germans should compensate ' 'the Jewish Nation' -- meaning Zionist organisations and their pet schemes, some of them located on Arab land. Most of Hitler's direct victims are dead; of his indirect victims, the most needy are probably the Palestinian refugees. On the other hand, it is not unclear why American taxpayers have been induced to fund memorial museums to foreign victims of a foreign tyrant: there is no more voluptuous feeling than melancholy indignation over an enemy's crimes. The lucky Turks do not count as enemies; the luckless Armenians have no friends in the right places.
American 'organised Jewry' can produce enough votes and donations to mobilise the Democratic party hierarchy on a minor issue like the Holocaust Memorial Museum. A hostile New York Times reviewer likened this book to the notorious forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which told of a fantastic Jewish plot to take over the world. But Finkelstein Lays definite charges against named organisations, largely on the basis of evidence supplied by them. And the relevant implication of his book -- though not spelled out by him -- is that 'organised Jewry' is not an authentic source of power.
The 'elites' named in this book do not pull any big strings. They swing behind Israel because Washington swings behind Israel, not vice versa. They blitz Swiss banks; but they dare not attack US banks, which according to Volcker probably have quite as much to hide. They are shocked when Hitler is used as a touchstone of evil for the atrocities of the United States' friends; but they dutifully compare the Incomparable whenever it concerns crimes of the United States' designated enemies.
No surprises here. It would be odd if rich and powerful Jews did not behave like rich and powerful people everywhere, i.e. with enormous greed and self-pity.
But Zionism is only as dangerous as US power allows it to be, and has no future without it.
The common agenda of anti-Semitism and Zionism was to persuade Jewish citizens that they belong to a race apart. In the absence of persecution, American Jews tend to 'marry out', give up circumcision and remember their ethnic origin only in the same maudlin fashion as the overseas 'Irish'. Religious Jews will practise a detribalised Judaism or shrivel into sects, No amount of 'Holocaust education' can halt this trend.
Finkelstein's scathing tone is not out of place if camp survivors have been cheated of their due. Polemic, however, rarely persuades us that every side has been fairly shown. Nobody has yet made a serious case against this book; but one would have to know many legal and financial intricacies before endorsing it completely. Apparently, non-Jewish slave workers were also included among the beneficiaries of recent settlements, but Finkelstein says nothing about this.
He does not give enough chapter and verse on his claim that the 'Holocaust industry' has sought compensation for 135,000 surviving Jewish slave workers. He is scornful of the implication that 600,000 walked out of the camps in 1945. But this was explicitly claimed by Nahum Goldmann, the Zionist leader, in his 1976 book Le paradoxe Juif. It is not inconsistent with the WJC's original claim that six million perished.
© The Political Quarterly Publishing Co. ltd. 2001