After the fog of war: An early assessment of the Israel-Gaza conflict

<i>Israeli soldiers ride a tank after returning to Israel from Gaza on Aug. 3. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters</i>

Israeli soldiers ride a tank after returning to Israel from Gaza on Aug. 3. Photo by Siegfried Modola/Reuters

It is far too early to assess the impact of the latest war in Gaza, but still some preliminary thoughts are in order:

Anti-Semitism panic

Judging by what I have been reading in the press blogs and emails, it seems as if many Jews are in a panic about the rise in anti-Semitism. Once again, people are asking: Is this 1939? 1933? Even as distinguished a student of anti-Semitism as my revered colleague professor Deborah Lipstadt is quoted as saying that this may be 1934.

Permit me to dissent.

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How the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum changed my life

My daughter, Ilana, then a young college student, asked if she could go with me to the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on April 22, 1993 (the date was tied to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’s 50th anniversary). I said: “I will be leaving very early.” She responded: “I’ll be up.”

I couldn’t wait to get to the museum that morning. First of all, my home was in chaos. My sister and brother-in-law were in from Israel for the occasion. My mother came up from Florida. A couple of days before, they’d had an automobile accident, and, as a result, my mother was in a wheelchair. More importantly, the opening of the museum, which once seemed so far away, had finally arrived. I felt like a bridegroom on his wedding day or an expectant father after 14 years of gestation, filled with joy and anticipation, anxiety and excitement, even a bit of fear.

Ilana, for her part, was normally allergic to mornings. In those days, the only way she would be up at 6 a.m. was if she had pulled an all-nighter. But true to her word, she was ready to go. Then, no sooner had she gotten into the car, she turned to me and said: “It is time to quit.”

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What the Survivor and Historian Know

Detente Between Those Who Lived the Shoah and Study It

Jeff Cohen’s The Soap Myth as produced by the National Jewish Theater Foundation and directed by Arnold Mittleman has brought to life on the New York stage the inherent tensions between Holocaust historians and Holocaust survivors over facts and interpretation of facts. Time and again survivors speak of the Nazi’s making human fat into soap and Holocaust historians say that at best there is insufficient evidence to support that claim. When I was Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during its creation, I rejected the display of a cake of soap. So too did my colleagues at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem or at Auschwitz and Majdanek in Poland. Rather than go into the minutiae of detail regarding the soap, it is worthwhile to consider the relationship between survivor testimony and historical fact.

Elie Wiesel, the preeminent survivor, set the bar impossibly high. “Only those who were there will ever know, and those who were there can never tell.” Survivors’ testimony was privileged. They alone could know. Nothing could be said by my generation, born after the war; what could we know?

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Crawling on His Hands and Knees: Kissinger was Craven

The recently released new batch of Richard Nixon’s recordings of Oval Office conversations were chilling. Nixon is revealed for what he was an antisemite and Henry Kissinger a craven Jew.

I suspect that the damage to Kissinger’s reputation will outlast the damage done to Nixon’s. Anyone who followed the former President’s career knew of his antisemitism. He was acting in character, perhaps more candidly than he would want known, but Kissinger’s weakness stunned his admirers and even his detractors.

The former Secretary of State has asked that his statements be examined in context; fair enough. Yet once examined in context they seem even worse than initial appraisal given to them by the press, most particularly The New York Times.

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Counterevidence to Perceptions of Pervasive European Antisemitism

It’s been a dreary week in the world.

Fires cost the lives of more than two score Israelis, burned more than 4 million trees—each planted as part of the Zionist enterprise of reforestation— exposed the structural vulnerability of the nation and the irresponsibility and massive incompetence of successive governments of the right and the left.

 

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