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January 22, 2015 0

Bittersweet Freedom

“After Auschwitz, the human con­di­tion is not the same, noth­ing will be the same.“
– Elie Wiesel

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Credit: Yad Vashem

Jan­u­ary 27th marks the 70th anniver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz Birke­nau Con­cen­tra­tion Camp by the Russ­ian army at the end of World War II.  For those who were able to sur­vive the hor­rors of Auschwitz, finally hear­ing the words “We’re free! We’re free!” echo­ing across the camp bar­racks must have seemed almost too good to be true. We often hear sto­ries of the ini­tial encounter between camp sur­vivors and the lib­er­at­ing army, recounted by one child sur­vivor, “They gave us hugs, cook­ies, and choco­late. Being so alone, a hug meant more than any­body could imag­ine because that replaced the human worth that we were starv­ing for. We were not only starved for food but we were starved for human kindness.”

Peo­ple rarely con­sider what hap­pened to the anti-Semitism that was at the root of the Holo­caust once the war ended. There is some­times an assump­tion that anti-Semitism ended with the war or that it was greatly dimin­ished. In fact, this is never the case when geno­cide occurs. The hatred and prej­u­dice still exist, but their man­i­fes­ta­tion is not always bla­tantly obvi­ous.  In the case of the Holo­caust, the world felt a col­lec­tive sense of shame in fac­ing the images of sur­vivors, which was a strong inhibit­ing force against the bla­tant expres­sion of anti-Semitism. Today, decades later and with new gen­er­a­tions ris­ing, the ero­sion of that sense of shame has become a key fac­tor in the surge of anti-Semitism. That’s why edu­ca­tion is more impor­tant now than ever.

After lib­er­a­tion, the sur­vivors of Auschwitz were free to walk out of the camp, and were essen­tially on their own to make their way back to their com­mu­ni­ties and learn if their for­mer homes and val­ued pos­ses­sions were still there.  Many of the young women who sur­vived the camp trav­elled together in small groups, some­times for long dis­tances. Sleep­ing in barns, sheds or out­side in the woods, they were fre­quent vic­tims of vio­lent sex­ual assaults from maraud­ing sol­diers, attacks from which some did not sur­vive. They were tar­geted for two rea­sons – because they were women and because they were Jewish.

The lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz is clearly a crit­i­cally impor­tant event in the his­tory of the Holo­caust and one that should hold an impor­tant place in our col­lec­tive mem­o­ries.  But we also need to be mind­ful that anti-Semitism did not mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear with the lib­er­a­tion of the camps or the sign­ing of the peace treaties.  Today, anti-Semitism has reached to all-time highs across Europe and our mem­o­ries need to be tem­pered with a renewed vig­i­lance to con­tinue to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of prej­u­dice, from sub­tle stereo­types and Holo­caust “jokes” to vio­lent hate crimes against peo­ple per­pe­trated because of who they are.  Only then, will the man­date of “Never Again” become a reality.

How do we bring the lessons of the Holo­caust to stu­dents today in ways that are rel­e­vant to their lives?  The Anti-Defamation League pro­vides pro­grams and resources that help edu­ca­tors and stu­dents study the his­tory of the Holo­caust and apply its lessons to con­tem­po­rary issues of respon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship, moral deci­sion mak­ing, prej­u­dice, hate, and geno­cide.  Teach­ers can inte­grate mul­ti­me­dia cur­ric­ula into their class­rooms through Echoes and Reflec­tions.

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October 2, 2014 2

Details Emerge On Anti-Semitic Gathering In Tehran

As Iran’s 2nd New Hori­zon Con­fer­ence wraps up in Tehran, new infor­ma­tion is emerg­ing about con­fer­ence atten­dees, who included U.S. and inter­na­tional anti-Semites, Holo­caust deniers and anti-war activists.

In his open­ing speech, Nader Tale­bzadeh, the direc­tor of the New Hori­zon Con­fer­ence, explained the goal of the con­fer­ence as, “dis­trib­ut­ing the arti­cles and thoughts of top intel­lec­tu­als and philoso­phers world­wide among Iran­ian uni­ver­si­ties and artists,” and that, “The emer­gence of ide­ol­ogy of crit­i­ciz­ing the dom­i­nance of the Zion­ist lobby over the USA and EU, which is going to make some changes in the West, has made it an essen­tial and attrac­tive sub­ject to learn.” Tale­bzadeh added in an inter­view on the side­lines of the con­fer­ence to a Press TV cor­re­spon­dent that, “These are the peo­ple [the atten­dees] that are cen­sored in the West” for their views, which include pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries and Holo­caust denial.

Press TV also con­ducted an inter­view with Wayne Mad­sen, a U.S. anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rist, who claimed that the U.S. gov­ern­ment and Con­gress are under Zion­ist con­trol, “The Israeli agenda, which the Chris­t­ian and Jew­ish Zion­ists adopt one hun­dred per­cent, is what is sold to mem­bers of Con­gress, and that devel­ops into leg­is­la­tion, res­o­lu­tions; no one votes against any­thing [the Zion­ists] put up as far as a resolution.”

Among the speak­ers on the first day of the con­fer­ence was anti-Israel jour­nal­ist Garth Porter. In his speech to the atten­dees, Porter lev­eled accu­sa­tions against Israel, the Mossad and CIA for man­u­fac­tur­ing the Iran­ian nuclear cri­sis. Brazil­ian jour­nal­ist Pepe Esco­bar echoed Porter’s mes­sage and pre­dicted that Iran will become more active in world affairs as its stature and influ­ence in the region increases.

On the sec­ond day of the con­fer­ence, Art Olivier, a U.S. 9/11 con­spir­acy the­o­rist and film­maker, pro­moted his upcom­ing film about the life of pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Cor­rie. The film, Olivier said, will allow young Amer­i­cans “to see the real­ity of Rachel’s life which hap­pened 11 years ago and are going to real­ize the atroc­ity of Zion­ist actions against Pales­tini­ans and the peo­ple of Gaza.” Olivier also pro­moted the anti-Semitic canard that the U.S. film indus­try and Hol­ly­wood in par­tic­u­lar are under the dom­i­na­tion of Zionists.

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CODEPINK co-founder Medea Ben­jamin inter­viewed on Iran­ian state media

Other U.S. par­tic­i­pants also gave brief inter­views to Farsi-language media dur­ing panel breaks, includ­ing CODEPINK co-founder Medea Ben­jamin, who told IRIB Chan­nel 1 that some of the top­ics at the con­fer­ence addressed U.S. fund­ing for war at expense of pro­vid­ing ade­quate health­care for Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, and that, “These con­fer­ences should lift the pres­sure off of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple.” Also present at the con­fer­ence was Rev­erend Stephen Sizer, a vicar in the Church of Eng­land who, accord­ing to the UK-based Com­mu­nity Secu­rity Trust (CST), has been accused of pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic links on his website.

Some of the notable panel dis­cus­sions held dur­ing the three-day con­fer­ence included “Zion­ist fin­ger­prints on the 9/11 cover-up;” “The Gaza war & BDS Move­ment against the Zion­ist regime,” which Medea Ben­jamin was part of; “US-Israeli dual cit­i­zens work­ing in the inter­est of Israel: the case for treach­ery;” and “The ‘Islamic’ State meme, its pre­cur­sors, & the US-Israel-Saudi triangle.”

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May 22, 2014 2

Palestinians Welcome Pope Francis To Bethlehem With Anti-Semitism

On Sun­day, when Pope Fran­cis cel­e­brates mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, he may be con­fronted with bill­boards depict­ing Jesus being attacked by Israeli soldiers.jesus-palestinian-pope-israel

This not-so-subtle mod­ern day ver­sion of the dei­cide is trans­par­ent clas­si­cal anti-Semitism in the guise of crit­i­cism of Israel.  The posters are a prod­uct of The Pales­tin­ian Museum, which announced that at the request of the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity (PA)’s Supreme Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee for Church Affairs, it had pre­pared spe­cial bill­boards to dec­o­rate Manger Square which “com­bine recent media pho­tographs of the Pales­tin­ian land­scape and its peo­ple with West­ern baroque paint­ings of bib­li­cal scenes.”

The posters, some of which depict Jesus suf­fer­ing at the hands of Israeli sol­diers, will high­light “the ten­sion between the pop­u­lar image of the Holy Land and Palestine’s ongo­ing his­tory of suf­fer­ing under occu­pa­tion and oppres­sion,”  accord­ing to the Museum.

Pales­tin­ian efforts to present them­selves as the direct descen­dants of Jesus are noth­ing new.  Nor is the manip­u­la­tive and anti-Semitic com­par­i­son of Pales­tin­ian suf­fer­ing at the hands of Jews just as they claim Jews were respon­si­ble for suf­fer­ing and death of Jesus.

The mes­sage care­fully cho­sen by an offi­cial Pales­tin­ian body to pub­licly wel­come Pope Fran­cis demon­strates how deeply inter­min­gled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel atti­tudes are in the Pales­tin­ian pub­lic sphere.

At the weekly meet­ing of Israel’s cab­i­net, Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu decried Pales­tin­ian incite­ment, cit­ing the ADL Global 100 Sur­vey find­ings about the high level of anti-Semitic atti­tudes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the PA reg­u­larly com­plains that incite­ment is an Israeli-manufactured excuse, there is no deny­ing that extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic mes­sag­ing appears rou­tinely in offi­cial Pales­tin­ian pub­li­ca­tions and institutions.

Ear­lier this week, the May 21st edi­tion of the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, fea­tured an op-ed by one of its fre­quent writ­ers, Yahya Rabah, enti­tled “No One Believes Shy­lock,” fea­tur­ing the denial of the Jew­ish con­nec­tion to the Land of Israel, com­par­isons of Israel to the Nazis and other out­rages.   Rabah writes:

“… Israel lives on a broad and exten­sive sys­tem of laws from the British Man­date, on illu­sion­ary Torah maps, as well as on hal­lu­ci­na­tions from the Baby­lon­ian cap­tiv­ity or from the Roman, the exis­tence of nei­ther has no sin­gle evi­dence. (It also lives) on prac­tices bor­rowed from the Nazis, cur­rently imi­tated by the Israelis against the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, as clearly estab­lished by a num­ber of intel­lec­tu­als, authors and his­to­ri­ans in Israel these days.”

The issue of Pales­tin­ian incite­ment, and the PA’s chronic fail­ure to pre­pare the Pales­tin­ian pub­lic for peace with Israel was on ongo­ing con­cern cited by Israeli offi­cials dur­ing the recent cycle of US-brokered peace nego­ti­a­tions.

And with these egre­gious exam­ples appear­ing almost-daily, it is cer­tain to con­tinue to alarm all those com­mit­ted to true Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

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