The Holocaust Issue and Middle East Policy
Alfred M. Lilienthal
One is unable to discuss Middle East policy without bringing up this question of the Holocaust. Let me make my thinking clear: The Nazi genocide was a gross tragedy. It matters little whether six million or three million, or but three Jews were killed, simply because they were Jews. It was one of the worst abominations committed against humanity. But we ought to also remember that other peoples, other than Jews, were victimized as well. There is no reason why, today, 47 years after the end of World War II, we must constantly look back over our shoulders and dwell infinitely on the tragedy of that time, rather than to move forward and seek remedies for our many current ills.
The reason for this continuing backward look is to make us all feel guilty, Christians and Jews alike, and to silence us in the face of what has been going on in Palestine's occupied territories, the West Bank and Gaza. Day in and day out, the media -- led by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the television networks -- in stories and headlines, aim to make us all feel guilty as hell. It is either a reunion of Holocaust survivors, if not a gathering of the grandchildren, and even the story of the great grandchildren. "Bormann is alive," ran the headlines five years ago. And more recently, the bones of the killer Mengele were exhumed, to see whether or not the Nazi was really dead and buried there. These stories always appear in booming headlines.
Concentrate the attention of public opinion makers and the American people on the many sins of mankind committed against the Jews through genocide and anti-Semitism, in its many forms, and inject Holocaustomania into every possible aspect of daily life, politics, religion, the arts and the entertainment world. Then, no one will ever be able to make a reasoned, logical judgment on how best we can bring about peace in the harassed Middle East.
American attention is thus diverted from the dangerous incubator of future war, the abysmal neglect of Palestinian human rights. Many Americans here at home who see this are, however, inhibited and fearful of speaking out, lest they be labeled "anti-Semites" by the partisans of Israel.
I sense a growing stirring and latent, ugly anti-Semitism resulting from this free-speech suppression. This deeply concerns me, as it must many others.
The policies of the State of Israel, as well as Zionism and the Jews, must be open to constructive criticism. I do not believe the Holocaust saga should be sanctified as if it were our third holy book along with the Old and New Testaments. Even they are open to scrutiny in the search for truth.
Thomas Jefferson once asked the Virginia legislature, "For God's sake, why can't we really hear both sides?"
I do not believe that questioning certain exaggerated details of the grossest act of humanity, as I have done, and will continue to do, is tantamount to asserting there was no Holocaust. Only a big fool or a greater villain takes such a view today. When I questioned the authenticity of The Diary of Anne Frank, I was widely assailed. It cost me dearly in my relations with my alma mater, Cornell University. But there is a fundamental difference between saying there was no Holocaust, and insisting that the Holocaust not be used continuously as a justification and a cover up to win sympathy for the Zionist position and Israeli excesses, and as an excuse for ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, it is no exaggeration to sadly note that worship of the State of Israel and the Holocaust, have become the new Golden Calves of Jewry, and that they are slowly supplanting the worship of Yahweh. The Chief Rabbi of Britain, Immanuel Jakobovits, has stated that the Holocaust has become "an industry far from the soul of Judaism."
Relative to this, when I spoke at Claremont in 1976, I pleaded for a free and open debate on U.S. Middle East policy as a prime necessity. I called for discussion in which both speaking out in favor of the Palestinian right to self-determination, and against accepting chapter and verse of the oft-repeated tale of Nazi genocide and anti-Semitism, can take place without drawing the label of "anti-Semite." Unfortunately, as eminent columnist Joe Sobran recently quipped, "It used to be that an anti-Semite was anyone who hated Jews. Now, it is anyone whom Jews hate."
From The Journal of Historical Review, September/October 1993 (Vol. 13, No. 5), page 44.
About the author
Alfred M. Lilienthal, historian, journalist and lecturer, is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School. During the Second World War, he served with the US Army in the Middle East. He later served with the Department of State, and as a consultant to the American delegation at the organizing meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco. Since 1947, he has been at the forefront in the struggle for a balanced US policy in the Middle East. He is the author of several acclaimed books on the Middle East, including The Zionist Connection. He now lives in Washington, DC. This commentary is taken from Dr. Lilienthal's address at a meeting of the National Association of Arab Americans in Los Angeles, December 5, 1992.