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The Holocaust and the Exceptionalism of Jewish Suffering

Witness the Holocaust: while there can be no argument about the enormity of the suffering inflicted on the Jewish people, there's a certain conceptualization of the tragedy that can be especially harmful.  Primary among these is that this genocide was not only unique, but that it confers on Jews certain rights or privileges: "boasting rights," if you will. Jewish suffering in the Holocaust has been used to justify all manner of horrible Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Whenever the Israel Lobby and its apologists meet anyone viewed as hostile to Israel, invocation of the Holocaust silences the conversation and seals the "fate" of the interlocutor. Associate someone with Hitler or his brand of Jew hatred, and you need not say more. You've neutralized whatever credibility or viability their arguments might have.

Further, by "exceptionalizing" the Holocaust this serves to cut Jews off from the rest of humanity. If the six-million are "ours" and ours alone, then there can be no other genocide that compares to it. In truth, humans have committed genocide going very far back in our history as a species. Even we Jews exterminated tribes which lived in the land of Israel at the time of Israelite settlement. There were even civil wars between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, in which tens of thousands were slaughtered as recounted in the Biblical narrative.

Nor should the rest of humanity and its religions let themselves off the hook. The Catholic Church slaughtered Albigensians in the Middle Ages. It slaughtered Jews during the Crusades.  Burmese Buddhists have killed tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya Muslims and ethnically cleansed a half-million people. The Buddhist Sinhalese of Sri Lanka slaughtered the Tamils to end Sri Lanka's civil war.  We are a race that kills its own.  And the murderers often get away with it.

But such an impulse to mass murder is not unique to Jew haters (of which there have been far too many, alas). Genocide may be built into our human genetic code.

[About the author Richard Silverstein: As I write this, I'm on a plane returning from Berkeley to Seattle, after attending an Islamophobia conference, "The Road Traveled," at which I delivered my first academic paper: "Global Islamophobia: the Israel Connection."  There were presenters from Japan, Canada, Sweden the UK, France, and Austria.]

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by Oui on Mon Apr 30th, 2018 at 01:16:24 PM EST

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