James Zogby and the abuse of Holocaust Memory

This is cross posted from our friends at Huffington Post Monitor. The term, “Abuse of Holocaust Memory”, is the title of a new book written by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, and refers to the dynamic of the Holocaust becoming more and more prone to a multitude of distortions. Its history and terminology are abused for a variety of purposes, including using it as a tool against one’s enemies and, in particular, Jews and Israel.

It seems like just the other day that I was praising James Zogby as a voice of reason among Israel’s critics. Unfortunately he completely blew it with his latest blog post, which was posted on Saturday. Most of it was attempting to stop a supposed Israeli strawman with a strawman of his own but at this point I don’t want to focus too much on the article as a whole. What I did want to demonstrate was this one paragraph, which could probably earn a ten-page paper all its own. Emphasis mine:

“As our polling has consistently demonstrated, Palestine is not merely an issue, it is an existential concern that not only unites Arabs, it defines their sense of common history and their deepest feelings of betrayal by and their vulnerability in the face of Western machinations. In a real sense, the plight of Palestinians is to the Arabs, what the Holocaust is to Jews world-wide. To ignore this reality is to invite disaster.”

Let’s not even start with how grievously insulting it is for Mr. Zogby to use the Holocaust as a way to strike at the Jews for the gain of his Arab friends. Nothing that I could say to highlight his words would make them any more insulting or horrid than they are on their own. Instead, let us simply talk about how he is wrong.

Al Jazeera recognizes a recent poll, highlighted by Efraim Karsh, in which 71% of Arabs said they did not care about Palestine. Of course we know that polls have their own problems, and I could easily find another poll that says the reverse. But surely Mr. Zogby must know that you can’t generalize any group of people, especially the Arabs. Regardless the behavior of the Arabs toward the peace process has been one of caring, sure. But an “existential concern?” Give me a freaking break. The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the Palestinians and everything to do with Saddam Hussein, and that’s just one example.

That is not even counting the long, bloody history of Arab-Palestinian relations. Look at how the PLO and their supporters were treated in Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait, among other places. Jordan has given the Palestinians no rights at all, and every single Arab nation in which they live has not given them citizenship nor has let them leave the squalid refugee camps where they live. All in the name of “their own good.” If that is what Mr. Zogby would like to call “caring,” then I think the Palestinians would appreciate a little less of it. The comparison with the Holocaust is obscene when you consider the very basic facts of the way that the Arabs have been treating the Palestinians, and Mr. Zogby should be ashamed of himself for letting his emotions and desire to make a “gotcha” talking point override his common sense.

Oh, and before someone tries to make the case that these Arab nations are dictatorships and don’t represent the true feelings of the Arabs toward the Palestinians, I am not familiar with any Arab groups in the Middle East protesting, commemorating, or even acknowledging the existence of crimes committed against the Palestinians by their governments. Nor, for that matter, do I see it from Arab groups outside of the Middle East, including the Arab American Institute. Which is kind of ironic seeing as how so many of Israel’s detractors claim that American Jews are too afraid to disagree with Israel.

One thing is clear: The Arabs and the Arab nations do care about the Palestinians and it unites them…up to a point. And what is that point? When it can no longer be used against Israel. History has proven that when the Arab “caring” for the Palestinians requires (a) some sacrifice of their own and (b) acting in a way that is not against the Jews, all that caring is suddenly gone, only to be found again the next time that they can blame Israel for something.

Perhaps this is an issue of disconnect: Mr. Zogby is a prominent Arab American, but he is still just an American. He can speak for himself, he can speak for the people who he polls and works with, but he cannot speak for the 350 million Arabs who live all over the world. And when he tries to he just ends up embarrassing himself, as in this example. Yes, maybe he really really cares about the Palestinians just because they are his fellow Arabs, and not because they are a convenient club with which to beat Israel. But can he be sure that every person at the anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian rallies has motives as pure as his own? American Jews who support Israel have had the same problem, i.e. trying to speak about life in Israel when they really don’t know what is going on over there, and their opponents haven’t hesitated to point it out. And so when Mr. Zogby does the same thing, I will not hesitate either.

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