Thursday, December 25, 2014

Is It Time to Rethink Holocaust Remembrance/Education?

In light of the recent kerfuffle in Ireland and the direction in which Holocaust remembrance has been heading (i.e. embracing "diversity" and stripping it of its specificity), Ben Cohen thinks it might be a good idea:
Increasingly, Holocaust education is becoming general tolerance education. From warning against the evils of genocide in general—a legitimate and important thing to do—we now wield the Holocaust as a tool to combat ills from the bullying of overweight kids to anti-immigrant rhetoric. And that means we lose our perspective. You don’t need to invoke the Holocaust to explain why harassing someone over their appearance or their origins is wrong. 
Equally, this same emphasis on one human family is diluting the particular lessons of the Holocaust for Jews, as well as providing an opportunity for anti-Zionists—of whom there are many in Ireland, as is the case elsewhere in Europe—to scorn and demean the idea that Jewish sovereignty is the best answer to the persecution of our people.
So if commemorating the Holocaust in the public sphere requires Jews to play down their affiliation with Israel, and to elide the intimate connection between what the Holocaust represents and the significance of a Jewish state in our own time, then I’d say we are better off without Holocaust Remembrance Day. 
That doesn’t mean Jews should forget about the Nazi extermination—nor will they, as the enduring power of Yom HaShoah in Israel attests. But surely it’s better to just commemorate it amongst ourselves, and stress to the outside world that self-determination is our antidote to centuries of anti-Semitism, than to be forced into ugly compromises about when we can or can’t mention Israel.
The same could be said of "outreach" efforts involving Jews, Christians and Muslims.

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