One of the most repugnant conspiracy theories in existence today is that of holocaust denial. There’s no shortage of conspiracy theories that selectively deny evidence and focus on one tiny sliver of ambiguity or doubt in order to make the claim that the greater narrative should be discarded in favor of some alternate version of reality. But holocaust denial stands alone in terms of both the mountains of evidence being ignored and the agendas of those who would further the alternate thesis.
At times like this, I like to examine the true crux of the argument they’re making. The fundamental argument that the deniers make, is that there’s no way that in the approximately 5 1/2 year period beginning in late 1939 and ending when Germany surrendered to end the European stage of World War II was not enough time, given then-available technologies, to massacre six million Jews and other minorities.
Let’s ignore the fact that, if there were a mandate that everyone on the planet must fight exactly one other person to the death every day, the death toll on day 1 would be more than 3.5 billion and that we’d wipe out pretty much all of humanity in just over a month. And the only real technological limitations would be for the survivors on any given day to locate their next opponents.
I’m not unsympathetic to the argument that the six million figure might be wrong. After all, it is truly impossible to know the exact number. It took the best statisticians in the world more than a decade to land on that number in the first place. Even today, there’s no shortage of bona fide historians who argue that the true number might be closer to 8 or 9 million. If we’re willing to argue that the number should be larger, surely there’s room to argue that it’s closer to 4 million, right?
And that’s not even getting into the old canard about how there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. After all, those gum ads don’t say “4 out of the 5 dentists we surveyed recommend sugar free gum to patients who chew gum.” It’s amazing what the addition of two tiny words can do to the interpretation of the numbers.
So at the end of the day, denying the holocaust its place in history serves to undermine what happened next: the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. It’s not unreasonable to assert that a major reason why the nation was carved out of the territory it now holds, because of a degree of European guilt over what happened to the Jews during the holocaust. Deny the holocaust and you deny the justification for the founding of the nation.
And that’s unacceptable.
An argument can be made that the Palestinians who lived in the area in 1948 weren’t adequately informed of what was happening or they weren’t properly compensated for their land and for their troubles. With that fact in mind, they can’t be faulted for resentment towards Israel and its leaders. Nearly 70 years have passed since Israel was first founded, and she’s been in a near constant state of alert for hostilities ever since.
Israel has every right to defend itself and its citizens. But at the exact same time, if the Palestinians in the area are kept in slum-like conditions without the same privileges enjoyed by the state of Israel, there’s no way around the resentment aimed at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. To make matters worse, Israel has been building settlements in lands earmarked for the Palestinians.
I’m not trying to argue that Israel deserves any terrorist attacks committed by the Palestinians but its leadership sure as hell isn’t doing itself any favors by not being willing to listen to their grievances. Yes, the Palestinian charter calls for the destruction of Israel. It’s what Israel is trying to do to the Palestinians.
When Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech before congress a year ago, I heard his words and came to the conclusion that he may be one of the most dangerous people on the world stage.
That fact was underscored a couple of weeks ago when the UN Security Council condemned Israel’s continued building of settlements in the territory it has been occupying for nearly 50 years. At the very least, it’s a violation of the Geneva conventions.
I want to reiterate that Israel has a right to defend itself against foreign attacks, and it. has been doing so quite effectively for as long as it has existed as a nation. But Netanyahu and nearly the entire Israeli government are either being shortsighted, foolhardy, or both when they continue sowing the seeds of resentment that can only result in more attacks.
The Palestinians don’t need to have the moral high ground in this debate. But as long as right wing hardliners are in charge of Israel, the Palestinians are getting it anyway.
It’s a small consolation for the horrors its people are facing, by the hands of a group of people who, quite frankly, ought to know better. What the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians may not rise to the level of another holocaust, but they still harbor an attitude that surely resembles Germany around about 1936.
I worry that Netanyahu may be emboldened to make life worse in that part of the world, thanks to the incoming administration in the US.
And that’s a bloody shame.