Re-Arranging the 20th Century:
Allegro, non Troppo
by Gilad Atzmon
I say this as the child of a German Jewish-born father who escaped in time. His mother did not. I say it as a half-Jewish German child chased around a British playground in the second world war and taunted with "he's not just a German, he's a Jew". A double insult. But I say this too as a Christian priest who shares the historic guilt of all the churches. All Christians share a bloody inheritance. Paul Oestreicher, The Guardian, Monday 20th February 2006 (Paul Oestreicher is a chaplain at the University of Sussex.)What about freedom of expression when anti-Semitism is involved? Then it is not freedom of expression. Then it is a crime. Yet when Islam is insulted, certain powers raise the issue of freedom of expression. Amr Moussa, Arab League Secretary GeneralThere is a myth that we love freedom, others don’t: that our attachment to freedom is a product of culture; that freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values, or Western values ... Ours are not Western values, they are the universal values of the human spirit. Tony Blair, a speech given at a joint session of the United States Congress, Summer 2003
Tony Blair may have gotten it right for a change, it is rather possible that freedom, democracy and human rights, are ‘universal values of the human spirit’. Yet, they have very little to do with Anglo-American and Western governing philosophy and practices.
At Guantánamo Bay people are detained for over three years without being charged with any crime. If it were down to PM Blair and his infamous Anti-Terror bill, spending up to three months behind bars without being charged would be extended to the alleged enemies of the British people as well. If freedom is indeed a high ‘universal’ value of the human spirit, Blair and Bush must have very limited knowledge of such a spirit.
Anyhow, the following paper isn’t really about Blair or Bush; it is about the highly deceiving Western discourse. It is about people who claim to know what the human spirit and universalism are all about. It is about a worldview that is engaged in silencing others, not to say killing in the name of ‘freedom’, ‘universalism’ and ‘humanism’. It is a search into the genealogy of the pompous emerging liberal ‘Judeo-Christian’ discourse. It is a deconstruction of Western political ideology and its deluded notion of the past.
The Personal is Political
Rather ostensibly, Anglo-American political argumentation is gradually taking the form of a pornographic appeal to one’s empathy. It is grounded on a distribution of sporadic stories of personal pain. Once Blair or Bush feel the urge to flatten an Arab country, all they have to do is to provide their supportive media outlets with some painful personal accounts of an exiled dissident voice who would willingly and enthusiastically share with us some horrendous graphic details of his troubles at home. In most cases, we are then instantly predisposed to military intervention and we stand behind our democratically elected governments, collectively providing them with the mandate to kill in the name of freedom and democracy.
As it happens, a given personal account, without even being verified or validated can easily become a legal indictment of a country, its leadership, a culture, a people and even an entire gender. Apparently, the phrase ‘the personal is political’ serves as an efficient political argumentative apparatus. While pre-WWII Western politicians tended to make us believe that politics must transcend the personal and what may seem contingent, within the post-WWII Western political discourse, as long as it serves the Western hegemony, the personal is nothing but political.
As we know, it was different American feminists’ networks that were the first to call a war on the Taliban, spreading the personal accounts of some abused Afghani women. Whether consciously or not, they were laying the groundwork for Clinton and Bush’s war against Islam. Similarly, it was the personal accounts of the gassed Kurds of Halabja that were preparing the ‘international community’ for the war against Saddam. It was the personal accounts of Jewish survivors told after WWII that retrospectively justified the outrageous Anglo-American carpet-bombing of German cities towards the end of that war.
In the past, I suggested a skeptical philosophical take of the notion of the personal narrative in the light of Heidegger’s Hermeneutic criticism of Husserl’s Phenomenology . However, in the current paper I will engage myself with questions pertaining to the politics of the very shift from the personal to the political.
Currently, our political commitment is in large part determined by our reaction to personal narratives. Whether it is the personal story of the female rape victim or a detailed graphic account of an exiled Halabja resident, the Western subject is now properly trained in reacting politically and correctly to any given personal account. In metaphysical terms, the Western being has managed to rise above and resolve the old problem of induction; it is now adept at easily deducing a general political rule out of a very singular tale. This isn’t a big surprise, at the end of the day, human beings do tend to generalise. In metaphysical terms we have learned to avoid doubts having to do with our general tendencies.
But in fact it is slightly deeper: the shift from the personal to the political allows the Western subject to regard himself as an integral part of a cosmic ‘universal’, ‘liberal’ and ‘humanist’ order: collectively he reacts ‘humanly’ in a ‘single voice’ manner. Indeed, the empathetic sensation we detect within ourselves once confronting a personal traumatic account is an effective manipulative tool used rather often by our democratically elected leaders.
Auschwitz the Message
At least historically, it was within post-WWII Jewish discourse, both Zionist and anti-Zionist, where a clear tendency to present the personal as political could be easily detected. As bizarre as it may sound, Jewish discourse both on the right and left equally substantiates its argument by politicising the personal story of Auschwitz .
After all, this isn’t that surprising. Auschwitz is indeed a story of very many singular human beings who are exploited and reduced into mere livestock due to their sexual preferences, political beliefs and of course ethnic or racial origin. Yet, it was the personal accounts told by the liberated camp inmates that transformed WWII from the historical chapter and ideological insight that it was into a mere ‘political narrative’ not to say a solid political argument.
At least politically, it is ‘Auschwitz the message’ that provides the Israeli government with (false) legitimacy to drop bombs on crowded Palestinian urban areas. At the end of the day, after Auschwitz, the Jews are now “entitled to defend themselves.” It is Auschwitz the message as well that entitles Norman Finkelstein, a child of Holocaust survivor parents, to say what he has to say and receive commentary based on this fact. Rather often Finkelstein would use his very personal background as a core of legitimacy. But then, thinking about it, if Finkelstein is indeed an academic scholar, presenting a solid argument, which I am totally convinced he does, then we must be able to address his arguments without any reference to his family background. Academically, we should be able to address his ideas regardless of his unique autobiography. Similarly, the moral ground to kill innocents in the name of Auschwitz is rather suspicious. As we all know, it wasn’t the Palestinians who sent European Jews to concentration camps in Poland. Within the heavy smoke invoked by the personal trauma, not many suggest to the Jews to redeem themselves of the personal traumatic discourse of justification. Such a suggestion is sometimes regarded as a form of Holocaust denial with some grave legal implications.
But in fact, it isn’t Jews alone who are capitalising on ‘Auschwitz the message’. It is in the shadow of that very message that Americans allow themselves to kill millions of innocent civilians in the name of democracy and freedom. As we will see next, ‘Auschwitz the message’ is now deeply rooted within the core of the Anglo-American notion of democracy and liberal thinking.
On the face of it, it seems as if the liberal Western subject is trained to believe that it is the lesson of Auschwitz that entitles us all to ground the political in the personal. Thus, it isn’t really a coincidence that the official Holocaust narrative had become the entry card into the Anglo-American or even Western discourse. Accordingly, it isn’t really a coincidence that Holocaust shrines are now sprouting up like mushrooms in every major Western capital. In the UK for instance, a permanent Holocaust exhibition occupies a large part of the Empire War Museum. Clearly, the Jewish Holocaust has very little to do with the general perception of British Empire History. In fact, the Empire has many other non-Jewish Shoahs to account for. Yet, the absurdity is even greater, it is rather crucial to mention that it was the British Empire that was so reluctant to help European Jews escape their doomed fate. It was Lord Bevin’s 1939 White Paper that stopped Jews from emigrating to Palestine when danger for their lives was immanent. It was the RAF that repeatedly dismissed the necessity of bombing Auschwitz. We have a very good reason to assume that the British decision to capitalise on Auschwitz and the Jewish Holocaust narrative is rather a highly calculated political move.
A Holocaust memorial opened its gates in Washington a few years ago, yet it is very hard to cover the clear fact that Roosevelt did very little to help European Jews during the war. The American administration didn’t change its immigration laws between 1933-45 in order to prevent mass immigration of European Jews into the USA. Again, we have a very good reason to assume that the American decision to capitalise on Auschwitz and the Jewish Holocaust narrative is there to serve a very specific cause. Let me say it, this cause is not history per se, in fact it is there to undermine historical thinking and to cover up some crucial historical facts.
Auschwitz is indeed a horrible story of a total abuse of human rights by a sovereign State. It is certainly a disastrous account of the violation of human liberty. Auschwitz is the ultimate story of violation of the most fundamental rights. Auschwitz is certainly a story of State terrorism and considering the fact that the Anglo-Americans present themselves as the guardians of human liberty, it is not surprising that Auschwitz settled comfortably within the core of English speaking cultural and political thought. This may as well explain why rather than being a historical event, Auschwitz has become a political argument grounded on a collection of graphic personal and biographical accounts. In some European countries Auschwitz has now become a legally sealed list of prohibitions and laws that are set to prevent any possible historical scrutiny. Unfortunately, the Holocaust and WWII are now covered with a heavy cloud of quasi-moral smoke that blocks any serious treatment of the event, either scholarly or artistically.
Auschwitz and the Holocaust are now realised mainly in political terms. Auschwitz is shaping the Western vision of history as well as the vision of any possible future. Moreover, ‘Auschwitz the message’ stands as a perceptual mediator and a gatekeeper of any possible Western political ideology. Unless you acknowledge and approve the way Auschwitz is considered, you are not allowed in. In case you do not know what I’m talking about, you may ask the Iranian president, surely he can tell you more about the subject.
Needless to say, the vision of Auschwitz ‘the historical event’ is totally shaped by ‘Auschwitz the message’. In other words, any scholarly access into the Judeocide aspects of World War II is now totally denied. Furthermore, unless one approves and repeats the official Holocaust narrative, one may find oneself locked behind bars. This happened lately to three rightwing history revisionists who dared to doubt the official Auschwitz narrative. Regardless of what they have to say, whether one accepts their views or not, the idea of locking people up just for trying to shape our vision of the past is rather alarming. In fact, it means that we have totally failed in internalising the most crucial lesson of the war against Nazism. To employ thought police is exactly what totalitarianism is all about. To lock up a historical revisionist is to become a Nazi and the reason is simple: if Auschwitz is indeed a story of total personal abuse then denying freedom of speech is nothing but surrendering to the Nazi methods of personal abuse .
Admittedly, Auschwitz has now become the very essence of the liberal democratic argument. It is a timeless event, a crude and banal glimpse into evilness. It often takes new shapes and new faces. Yet, some parameters always remain the same. Within the Auschwitz ideological apparatus there is always clear binary opposition at stake. Auschwitz suggests a clear dichotomy between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’, between the ‘open society’ and its ‘enemies’, between ‘West’ and ‘the rest’, between the ‘democratic man’ and the ‘savage’, between Israel and Iran, between the ‘Judeo-Christian’ and ‘Islam’ and most importantly between the ‘universal humanist liberator’ and the ‘dark oppressor’.
Somehow, it is always the West that awards itself and itself alone with the legal capacity of enforcing the moral of Auschwitz. Somehow, most Western people still fail to see that within the emerging so called ‘cultural clash’, it is the Palestinians who are locked in a concentration camp named Gaza, they are obviously surrounded by the Israeli Wehrmacht and blitzed by American-made bombers dropped by American planes piloted by Israeli Luftwaffe top guns. Most Westerners fail to grasp that it is the West that is fighting an energetic Lebensraum expansionist war in the deserts of the Middle East. Why do we fail to see it? Because we are submerged within a dubious moral jargon that is there to impose some severe intellectual blindness upon us. Rather than thinking ethically and in categorical terms, we are giving in to the flood of shallow personal narrative rhetoric a la Blair and Bush. When those two were left with no forensic evidence to justify their illegal war in Iraq, they simply shifted their reasoning rhetoric to the Hitler-like Saddam Hussein. The invasion of the Iraqi oil reserves was retroactively justified by the necessity of removing the murderous tyrant. As strange as it may be, no one actually provided us with any real solid forensic evidence to back that very allegation of colossal breaches of human rights. Indeed, occasionally we saw some devastating mass graves exposed in the desert, but then a few days later, we would learn from an expert that those graves were actually a legacy of the bloody Iran-Iraq war. Worryingly, we have never asked for real evidence for Saddam’s crimes. We happened to be satisfied enough with some sporadic televised personal accounts. Apparently, we love to watch televised images of pain. As I mentioned before, we are enthusiastic about reacting collectively to a moral call.
In the liberal democratic world, the elected leader is doomed to justify his wars, to back them with solid or at least convincing moral arguments. As it happened, Tony Blair had to stand in front of the Parliament and justify his latest illegal war. At the time of its occurrence, the British government had to justify the erasure of Dresden. Similarly, the American administration had to provide sound reasoning for the outrageous use of atomic bombs against Japanese civilians.
Indeed, Western governments are inclined to provide us with some shallow ad hoc political and moral arguments that have a tendency to mature into historic narratives. Yet we do not have to accept those accounts. We are more than entitled to revise those ‘official arguments’ and historic narratives. To understand the contemporary political rhetoric is to be able to study and criticise it. But then, to revise the present is to re-visit the past. At least categorically, there is not much difference between the erasure of Dresden, Hiroshima, Caen, Fallujah or Najaf.
May I add at this point that I am totally convinced that denying Auschwitz should never have become a legal issue. The question of whether there was a mass homicide with gas or ‘just’ a mass death toll due to total abuse in horrendous conditions is no doubt a crucial historical question. The fact that such a major historical chapter less than seven decades ago is scholarly inaccessible undermines the entire historical endeavour. If we cannot talk about our grandparents’ generation, how dare we ever say something about Napoleon or even the Romans? Personally speaking, I may admit that I am not that interested in the question above. I am not an historian, I am not qualified as one. Being trained as a philosopher, I rather ask ‘what is history all about?’ ‘What can we say about the past?’
For me, the entire issue is purely ethical: challenging the dubious morality of the Western concern with Auschwitz is essential for the task of challenging those who kill daily in the name of ‘Auschwitz the message’. I am obviously referring here to Israel, America and Britain. Ostensibly, there is far more pain inflicted by those who maintain ‘Auschwitz the message’ than by those who dare to challenge the historical validity of its official narrative.
Is the Personal Political?
Though there is a clear tendency amongst some major Western institutes to impose the personal as a political message all in the name of liberty and humanism, it is rather crucial to mention that this very political apparatus achieves exactly the opposite effect. Politically, it silences the very personal.
Once the personal becomes political, the singular voice loses its importance and authenticity disappears. Once a society willingly endorses discourse based on a ‘correct’ collective empathy, first, the so-called ‘empathy’ is reduced into a mere ‘call’ rather than a vivid sensation, but most importantly, the voice of the genuine sufferer fades into the void.
In other words, within the Western liberal apparatus the singular voice often gets lost. If humanism is indeed a universal value, then the particular and singular becomes a public asset, the victim serves an instrumental role, he conveys a universal message. Once the personal becomes political, morality becomes a private-like discourse of righteousness. Rather than a general ethical abstract rule grounded on a true reflection, we would start to hear some ad hoc, self-centred and half-baked moral arguments . This may explain why rather occasionally, yesterday’s victims turn into today’s oppressors. For instance, it may explain why it didn’t take the Jewish State more than three years after the liberation of Auschwitz to ethnically cleanse 85% of the Palestinian indigenous population. Seemingly, the Jewish State has never matured enough to ethically endorse the moral lesson of the Holocaust. The reason is simple: as far as Israel is concerned, the Holocaust has never been realised as a general abstract ethical insight. Instead, it was grasped solely from a collective Judeo-centric perspective. The personal pain was properly politicised. A humanist would expect that young Israeli high school students who visit Auschwitz and confront their ancestors’ suffering would tend to empathise with the plight of the oppressed, and would identify with the Palestinians who are caged behind walls and starved to death at the hands of a nationalist racist regime seeking Lebensraum. Indeed the truth is shocking; less than a year after their visit to Auschwitz those same Israeli youngsters join the IDF. Outwardly, they learned the political lesson of Auschwitz. But rather than taking the side of the oppressed, i.e., the Palestinians, they apparently willingly endorse some SS Einsatzgruppen tactics.
But it isn’t only the Palestinians who happen to suffer from the politicisation and industrialisation of the Holocaust personal narrative. Once the Holocaust had become ‘the new Jewish religion’, it was the real, genuine victim who was robbed of his own intimate personal biography. The very private disastrous narrative has now become collective Jewish property. The real singular Holocaust survivor, the one who lived the horror, has been robbed of his very personal life experience. Similarly, within the extremist militant feminist view, which refers rapist qualities to the entire male gender, the genuine female rape victim is losing her voice. She is fading into the mass. Within the radical feminist political discourse the rape victim isn’t special at all: if all men are rapists, all women are victims.
Finkelstein’s ‘Holocaust Industry’ teaches us that once world Jewry adopted the Holocaust as its new institutional communal bond, the Holocaust was rapidly transformed into an industrial affair. The real victims were left behind. The funds and reparation money that were allocated for their recovery and the restoration of their very human dignity one way or another found its way to some Zionist and Jewish organizations. Somehow, this makes a lot of sense. Once the personal Holocaust narrative has become a collective political faith, almost everyone is entitled to be an ordinary disciple or even a priest. Consequently, we are now entitled to deduce that within the politicisation of the personal narrative, no one is left to own a biography. We are left with a collective ecstasies mindset that draws its power from a set of communally shared floating personal accounts.
Going along with the hermeneutic line of thought we may conclude that the political becomes personal.
The Political is Personal, The Crucial Role of Jewish Neurosis
The bizarre emergence of the so-called Israeli ‘3rd generation’, young Holocaust post-traumatic Israelis, is exactly that. It is a new form of collective religious worship. To be a 3rd generation is to join a belief system. To be personally traumatised by a past one has never entertained. It is to assimilate within a heavily orchestrated political precept. In fact, the 3rd generation are locked within a vicious trap that leads towards total alienation: the more those young Israelis who were born a few decades after the end of the last great war claim to be traumatized by the Nazis, the less the rest of humanity can take them seriously. The less they are taken seriously, the more those young Israelis feel deprived of minimal human dignity and respect. The more they are deprived, the more they are fixated on their new politically-imposed notion of trauma.
In a way, this is exactly the path towards religious isolation. The so-called ‘3rd generation’ are entangled within a narrative that leads towards a form of total alienation, a clear detachment from any recognised human cultural environment or reality. It is the religious zeal, i.e., trauma, that shapes that reality. One would expect that this form of collective neurosis would mature into a cultural separation wall between Jews and others. Surprisingly enough, not only did this not happen, if anything, it is the other way around. The Jewish discourse is integrated as a central part of Western consciousness. While some Jews would insist upon liberating themselves from the Holocaust burden that imposed a clear stain of hopeless impotence on their collective identity, the Western political system needs the Holocaust and the Jews to be the carrier of its narrative. Furthermore, the West needs the Jewish neurosis. It is the myth-like shaped narrative that facilitates the political and the commercial hegemony in a world that loses its contact with any genuine abstract categorical ethical thinking. The Holocaust is taking the shape of a belief system and the traumatised Jews are serving as its altar.
From a Western perspective, the Jews have an instrumental role in maintaining the liberal fundaments filling it with some devastating vivid poetic expressionism. This may explain why Holocaust denial laws are imposed in several countries, especially in countries where Zionist and Jewish lobbies’ influence is relatively minor. The Israeli scholar Yeshayahu Leibovitch, himself an observant Jew, noticed many years ago that the Jewish religion is dead, and that the Holocaust is the new religion uniting Jews around the world. I am inclined to agree that the Holocaust is now shaped as a religion. It is there to replace an anthropocentric ethical thinking. The Holocaust religion is there to rob the Western being of genuine ethical humanist thinking all in the name of humanism.
The emergence and the evolution of the Holocaust belief system is the subject I will explore next.
The Scientific, the Technological and the Religious
I would like now to look at the evolution of three major 20th century Western discourses: the scientific, the technological and the religious.
The scientific discourse can be defined as a highly structured form of ‘knowledge seeking’. Within the scientific worldview, man confronts nature and tries to get to the bottom of it. The technological discourse, on the other hand, is far less concerned with knowledge gathering, it is rather oriented around the transformation of knowledge into power. The technologist would say, ‘It’s of no concern to me whether you are applying Newtonian mechanics or Einstein’s relativity theory, just make sure that you get me to the Moon (and also make sure that it doesn’t cost too much).’ On the face of it, both the scientific and the technological discourses set man apart from nature. Both discourses imply human detachment from nature. The reason is pretty simple, if man can get to the bottom of nature, then man must be somehow greater or at least a different quality to nature. From a technological point of view, if nature and the knowledge of nature are there to serve man, then man must somehow be superior to nature.
Seemingly, these two discourses dominated the 20th century Anglo-American intellectual discourse. And since it was the Anglo-Americans who dominated our universe at least since the end of WWII, we are entitled to argue that these two thinking modes have been dominating the entire Western discourse for more than a while. In other words, to be Western in the 20th century meant to think scientifically and to act technologically. Accordingly, growing up in the West would mean, first learning to admire the scientist and to worship science, then gradually learning to applaud and consume technological innovations.
Academically speaking, it was the positivist school that insisted that we should become more scientific and far less philosophical. Historically at least, it was the Vienna Circle, a group of philosophers and scientists who aimed at eradicating any traces of metaphysics from the body of scientific knowledge. For the logical positivists, ‘logical rules and empirical data are the only sources of knowledge.’ Needless to say, logical positivism was an attempt to strike against the diversity of human reality. As some of the readers of this paper would hopefully agree: emotions, feelings and aesthetic pleasure can be equally as important as sources of knowledge and even scientific realisation, not to say insight. Nevertheless, the logical positivists wouldn’t agree, they were full of contempt towards quasi-scientific knowledge. Psychoanalysis, for instance, was like a red rag to a bull, it was totally unacceptable. Logical positivism wasn’t just an attack against emotional and spiritual expression, it was also a clear offensive on German philosophy. It was an unambiguous assault on German metaphysics, Idealism and early Romanticism.
In 1936, following the Nazi invasion of Austria, there were no positivists left in Vienna; due to their ethnic origin they had to flee. Most of them found shelter in Anglo-American universities. I do believe that the overwhelming positivist tendency within the post-war English speaking academic world has a lot to do with the forced immigration of those Jewish-German positivists. And yet, America has never been a scientifically oriented nation. Not ‘many’ scientific revolutions took place on the other side of the Atlantic. America is the land of open opportunities, and science was no doubt a great opportunity.
Rather than internalising the spirit of science, America was very efficient in transforming science into political and economic power. It was quick in allowing a bunch of exiled European scientists, most of them German Jews (as well as one Italian married to a Jewish woman), to build its first atomic bombs. It was very quick in embracing German rocket scientists who were enthusiastic enough to blast monkeys into outer space. The American intellectual world has never been too enthusiastic about abstract theoretical, not to say philosophical, questions. The very Germanic question ‘Was ist?’ didn’t really make it to the Anglo-American academic world. On the contrary, America has always been concerned with technological challenges. In other words, it is enthusiastic about the different mode of transformation of knowledge into power. America is all about technology, it is pragmatically oriented. Even within art, where America happens to contribute some major works of modern art and music, it didn’t take long before a market value was tagged. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you may know about the origin of knowledge as long as you drink Coke, eat McDonalds, buy a Charlie Parker album and dream of owning an original by Kandinsky.
It is this very pragmatic approach that led to the rise of a new form of contemporary unique religious discourse. While the scientific and the technological approaches set man aside from nature, the new Western religion re-locates man deeply within nature. The new Western subject, very much like the rock and the tree, lacks any substantial sense of self-awareness or critical tendencies. Willingly and enthusiastically, the newly formed Western being tends to accept some readymade reality perceptions. Within this newly emerging mythological faith, Democracy is one God, the Holocaust is another. These two Gods support each other. Democracy is the blind praise of human liberty a la Natan Sharansky whom George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice repeatedly quote. Holocaust, on the other hand, is the story of the ultimate persecution and everlasting revenge a la Simon Weisenthal. Democracy is the matter, the noticeable and manifested glory with white houses and glass skyscrapers. The Holocaust is the spirit, the Holy Ark, that thing which you follow in the desert but can never enter, question or challenge. The Holocaust God is standing at the very core of the argument for democracy that allows the Anglo-Americans to insist upon ‘liberating’ the very few countries that still hold some energy resources or are found to be located strategically close to these resources.
As we can see, the two Gods, Holocaust and Democracy, are cleverly set in a complementary relationship. The message is clear: unless Democracy is in place, a Holocaust is inevitable. Apparently, Anglo-Americans are using democracy as a political argument to violently expand their economic global hegemony. The less we are convinced by the democratic goddess, the less we believe our elected politicians and their illegal wars, the more we are dependent on an external supernatural paradigm. Auschwitz is exactly that paradigm. It is the ultimate supernatural narrative in which ordinary human beings become killing machines. It is the Auschwitz narrative in which the most culturally advanced nation is becoming a willing executioner a la Daniel Goldhagen.
The Holocaust God is there to sketch the alternative doomed reality. But as bizarre as it may sound, it is democratic America that has been lethally applying science against innocent civilians for over six decades. Whether it is Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, whether it is Vietnam or Iraq among many more places, the same story repeats itself: Anglo-Americans are killing en masse in the name of Democracy. There is always a clear valid moral cause behind their killing. Allegedly, lately they liberated the Iraqi people from the tyranny of the ‘Hitler-like’ mass murderer Saddam. Yet, it is crucial to mention that although the Americans and their puppet Iraqi legislators had enough time to collect more than enough forensic evidence to incriminate Mr Saddam Hussein, they were unable to do so. On the face of it, Mr Hussein’s charges in court are negligible compared to the charges that can be already established against Bush or Blair. Obviously, what is true about Saddam is applicable to the ‘Hitler-like’ Milosevic. As we happen to learn, for the time being, very little as been established to convict the former Serbian leader, a man who was repeatedly presented to us as a mass murderer. Again, I am far from being judgmental here, I just follow the legal proceedings against these two ‘Hitler-like’ ex-tyrants.
Here we come across the beauty and strength of religious belief. It is always flourishing in the regions of blindness. You can indeed love God as long as you cannot see him. You can join the party and hate Saddam as long as you know very little about him or Iraq. Worshipping and hatred alike are blind tendencies. Similarly, the strength of Auschwitz is due to its incomprehensibility. Auschwitz is feasible as long as it infeasible. Auschwitz is the modern-day burning bush, it is counterfactual. You can believe in it as long as you cannot comprehend it, as long as it doesn’t make sense, as long as it is beyond contemplation. Like a Holy Ark, you would follow it in the desert just because you aren’t allowed in. Auschwitz is the sealed sacred secret of the Anglo-American emerging religion. It is the unseen face of God delivered in a form of personal accounts. Once you question it, you challenge the future of Anglo-American life on this planet. Once you question Auschwitz, you become a modern-day Antichrist. Instead of doing that, you are highly recommended to kneel down and to approve the newly emerging burning bush mythology.
Within the Jewish orthodox apparatus history in general and Jewish history in particular are totally redundant. Simply, there is no need for such an intellectual endeavour, the Bible is there to set the Judaic thinking parameters. Judaically speaking, Saddam, Chmelnisky, Hitler and even Arafat are nothing but a mere repetition of the horrendous Biblical Amalek. With the Bible in place, there is no need to question the empirical and forensic validity of the different burning bushes and the Holy arcs. The Jewish belief is based on blind acceptance. To love God is to obey his rules. To be a Jew is never ever to question the fundaments. Apparently, there is no Jewish Theology. Instead, Jews have their Talmud: a collection of laws and rules. This perception is far from being stupid. It is rather logical and consistent. If God is indeed a supreme transcendental entity that exceeds any notion of space and time, then man is doomed to fail in comprehending him anyway. Thus, rather than philosophising on fundaments, Rabbis are mainly concerned with regulations. They are there to say what is kosher and who is a sinner. Similarly, within the newly emerging Anglo-American religion, no one is supposed to raise questions concerning the Holocaust or WWII. Moreover, no one is supposed to ask what freedom, liberty, human rights and democracy really mean. The question of whether or not we are free beings is far too philosophical. Rather than suggesting an answer, we are confronted with the Rabbinical icons Blair and Bush who restrict our freedom in the name of freedom.
Let’s leave the Iraqis out. Are we, the so-called West, liberated? Within the new Israelite Western religion, blindness is the way forward. On the face of it, the complexity of the WWII narrative with its contradictions and discrepancies just contributes to its magical, fantastic and supernatural qualities. We better learn to accept the Hollywood take on WWII rather than adopting some silly sceptical approach. Indeed, it is the contradictions and discrepancies that turn the Holocaust into a vivid human story shaped as a religion. It is the inconsistencies that turn the Holocaust into a modern-day burning bush. Let’s face it, you cannot see God but you can clearly hear the voice of democracy and freedom echoing from within the cloud of smoke. Indeed the political is what is left out of that which was personal at one time.
With their trousers halfway down I can see these three outlaws: Irving, Zundel and Germar, the three rightwing historical revisionists who happen to be locked behind bars. They are surrounding our precious shrine, rudely they are pissing over our emerging democratic miracle. Vulgarly, they question the validity of the personal narrative; foolishly they aim at establishing a rational, dynamic, lucid empirically grounded narrative based on forensic evidence. The three criminals are applying logical-positivistic methods. Pathetically, they follow the tradition of Carnap, Popper and the Vienna Circle. I wonder whether they realise that they happen to follow an academic tradition set by a Jewish secular Germanic school. Those ugly revisionists are aiming at truth-values, correspondence rules, empiricism. Shame on them, let them rot in hell. They fail to see that the West has moved forward. Listen you revisionists, you missed the train, we aren’t scientific anymore, we aren’t even technological. We are now deeply religious and we aren’t even theological about it. We are Evangelical, we take things on their face value and don’t ask me whose face it is. We want to believe. We are now religious and we will make sure that you do not interfere.
Rather than suggesting a preferable historical narrative, I aim at grasping what history is all about. What are the conditions of the possibilities of any knowledge of the past? I am not an historian and I am not intending to be one, I am interested in the conditions that shape the historical narrative. When it comes to the history of the 20th century, we are locked within a strict tale that was imposed on us by the winners. True, history is the tale of the winners and yet the winners were and still are: capitalist, colonialist and imperialist. The question to be asked is, how come the European left that traditionally opposed the above, tended to blindly buy the twisted tale of those ‘colonialist’ ‘capitalist’ winners? I assume that the fact that Stalin was amongst the winners has something to do with it. The fact that the left was itself chased by Hitler is probably another reason. Yet the USSR is now part of our past, Stalin is gone, and Leftists aren’t chased by Hitler anymore. The European left is now entitled to think freely. Supposedly we are now at liberty to re-view our knowledge of the past, we are entitled to re-ask questions and to try to re-solve some major discrepancies to do with WWII. I am not talking here about a truthful historical account, because, unlike David Irving and his bitter academic opponent Richard J. Evans, I do not know what historical truth is. But I do understand what narrative is and I even realise what consistency means. I argue that not only are we entitled to revise history, we must do so and I will mention two reasons:
(A) If the left or what is left of it, won’t jump into this boiling swamp, WWII history and Holocaust scholarship will be left in the hands of the European radical right (politically and academically). I tend to believe that at large, this is already the case. While left academics are mainly concerned with signalling out Holocaust deniers telling us what is right and who is wrong, it is the revisionists who engage themselves in detailed archive work as well as forensic scrutiny.
(B) Those who dropped bombs on Dresden and Hiroshima have never stopped killing in the name of democracy. They are now engaged in a murderous occupation of Iraq and they are even planning to expand to Syria and Iran. If we want to stop them, we better re-visit our past and revise our image of Anglo-American democracy. We must re-arrange the 20th century. For the sake of a better future we must revise the past.
It is rather clear that at least from an Anglo-American perspective Hitler wasn’t the enemy. Stalin, the Communist tyrant, was their real foe. Hitler had a very precise role. He was there to bash the Eastern Communists on behalf of the West, he was there to flatten the Reds and so he did for a while. This may explain why no one in the West really tried to stop Hitler in the 1930’s. From an Anglo-American point of view, the moustached man fitted in rather nicely. It may explain why Hitler himself didn’t eradicate a third of the British army in Dunkirk. Why should he? These British soldiers were his allies to come. May I suggest that the fact that Hitler was actually serving Western interests explains why the Americans who joined the war in 1942, didn’t engage with him in a battle over central Europe until June 1944. Rather than fight Hitler in the main ground, they engaged in battles in North Africa and in Southern Italy. The reason is simple: They wanted Hitler to exhaust Stalin. They didn’t want to jeopardise his holy mission. Once Hitler lost his 6th Army in Stalingrad, the Western perception of Hitler’s role changed dramatically.
Once it was clear that Hitler was losing to Stalin, there was a necessity to keep the Reds as far as possible from the British channel. Though the Allies presented themselves as the liberators of France, in fact they invaded the beaches of Normandy so as to stop Stalin in central Europe. This may explain the devastation the Allies left behind them in Normandy. Liberators hardly slaughter the liberated; Anglo-Americans are apparently different.
From mid-1943, the Allies enjoyed air superiority over Germany and yet, rather than dismantle the German army and its logistic targets, they concentrated on carpet-bombing German towns, killing hundred of thousands of innocent civilians with phosphorus bombs. After the war, Albert Speer was quoted saying that considering the Allies’ air superiority, a bombardment of German industrial infrastructure and logistic targets would have resulted in German military collapse in less then two months. I assume that the military reason behind the Allies’ carpet bombardment is devastatingly simple. The Allies didn’t want to destroy the German Army that was fighting Stalin. Meanwhile, the Allies had many bombs and they had to drop them somewhere. Around 850,000 German civilians died in those murderous military operations.
Anglo-Americans do believe in attacking their enemies’ soft bellies. This is why British and Americans arrived at the war with tactical bombers (Lancaster, B-17 and B24). Within the Anglo-American tactical philosophy, heavy pressure upon the civilian population would benefit the offender. This may explain the fact that it was Churchill who was the first to use Blitz tactics, launching a heavy bombardment on Berlin in August 1940. In fact it was that move that led Hitler to retaliate and to divert Luftwaffe efforts from Britain’s southern airfields to London and other populated British cities (September 7, 1940). Indeed, it was Churchill’s cold decision that saved Britain from a Nazi invasion (Operation Sea Lion). Yet, we should never forget that it was Churchill who brought German retaliation to the British streets. This fact hardly finds its way into British history texts.
Within the victorious narrative, the use of atomic bombs was necessary in order to shorten the war. Within the Anglo-American narrative, nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki sounds almost like a humanitarian effort. Apparently, there is an historic chronological fact that doesn’t find its place into the English-speaking history curriculum. Two days after the Hiroshima bomb (August 6, 1945) the Soviets entered the war against Japan. It was that event which led the Americans to nuke Nagasaki just a day later. Clearly, the industrial liquidation of thousands of Japanese civilians was there to guarantee a rapid, unconditional Japanese defeat to the Americans and to them alone.
I tend to believe that the Holocaust narrative that is forcefully imposed on us all is there to silence some alternative interpretations of WWII events. I do believe that if we really want to stop Anglo-Americans from killing in the name of democracy we better re-open a genuine debate.
Stopping Bush and Blair in Iraq, stopping those warmongers from proceeding to Iran and Syria, is necessary. If history shapes the future, we need to liberate our perspective of the past; rather than arresting revisionists, we need many more of them. We must let go; we must re-arrange the 20th century.
 Zionism and other Marginal Thoughts, Counterpunch. Husserl suggests that one can refer to ‘Evidenz’, which is a form of unmediated awareness. Accordingly, it is possible to experience a pure awareness of oneself. Husserl stresses that an individual’s self-awareness can convey an authentic form of knowledge.
Martin Heidegger refused to go along with Husserl’s perception; he indeed exposed a major flaw in Husserl’s thought. According to Heidegger, unmediated awareness is actually hard to conceive. Human beings, he rightly said, do operate within language. Language is out there before one comes into the world. Once one enters the realm of language, a separating wall made of symbolic linguistic bricks and cultural mortar thwarts one’s access to any possible ‘unmediated awareness’. Can we think without applying language? Can we experience at all without the mediation of language? As soon as we name or rather say once within language we can never be authentic anymore. It would seem that a comprehensive authentic awareness is impossible. Consequently, personal narrative, though plausible, can never convey an ‘authentic reality’, it is always shaped by a predated language and even cultural conditions.
 The leftist may say, ‘being a son of a survivor, I am more than entitled to criticise the State of Israel, Zionism or even the exploitation of the Holocaust by Jewish organisations.’ On the contrary, the Jewish hawk would maintain that it is precisely the tale of Auschwitz told by his parents that gives meaning to the Zionist project, set there to prevent Auschwitz from repeating itself.
 At first glance it was very encouraging to learn that Deborah Lipstadt, the leading warrior in the war against Holocaust denial, was actually calling upon the Austrian authorities to let the Historical Revisionist David Irving free. "Let the guy go home. He has spent enough time in prison," she said. It didn’t take long to realize that what may sound like tolerance and forgiveness is in fact a cold instrumental maintenance of the official Auschwitz narrative. “I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech,” says Lipstadt, and goes on, “Let him go and let him fade from everyone's radar screens." We are entitled to assume that Lipstadt's concerns with Irving’s re-appearance have something to do with Irving's willingness as well as capacity to challenge the official Holocaust narrative. Seemingly, the American Rabbinical academics enthusiastically endorse ‘freedom of speech’ just in order to silence her foe.
Apparently, Lipstadt isn’t alone. “If Austria wants to prove itself a modern democracy,” argues Christian Fleck, a sociologist at the University of Graz, “you use argument, not the law against Holocaust deniers” (BBC article). This indeed sounds like a proper argument you could expect to hear from a European scholar. Yet the Austrian sociologist doesn’t stop there; unwittingly, he presents what he regards as a correct academic argument: “Irving is a fool and the best way of dealing with fools is to ignore them... Are we really afraid of someone whose views on the past are palpable nonsense, at a time when every schoolchild knows of the horrors of the Holocaust? Are we saying his ideas are so powerful we can't argue with him?" (ibid.) Seemingly, Fleck is not fully familiar with basic logical formulation. To ‘use an argument’ isn’t to present a conclusion as a premise. Fleck’s academic duty is to prove beyond doubt that Irving is indeed a fool. This would mean something slightly more substantial than the ‘common knowledge of a schoolboy’. Again, without addressing Irving’s accountability, without referring to the validity of his arguments, we find ourselves learning about the current dubious notion of Western tolerance. I would argue that Fleck and Lipstadt alike are interested merely in an image of tolerance. Something that looks like freedom but in fact maintains hegemony.
 It is rather important to mention at this point that that it is within the above very dichotomy where the Iranian president is singled out and left with no other option but endorsing what is seen by some as a Holocaust denial narrative. It is crucial to mention that the Iranian president is not alone, many Muslims and Arabs feel the same. Once Auschwitz becomes the symbol of reconciliation between Jews and Christians, Islam in general and Arabs in particular are left to be seen as a universal global threat. They are practically evicted from the Western discourse. If this isn’t enough, they are dispossessed of elementary human dignity. To a certain extent, the only way around it for them may be to dismiss the Holocaust altogether.
“If you care so much about the Jews,” asks Ahmadinejad the Iranian president, “why don’t you take them back?” Although such a suggestion may sound bizarre at first, it indeed conveys logical and consistent deconstruction of the Auschwitz ideological apparatus at least from the point of view of today’s oppressed. At the end of the day, the Holocaust is a Western affair. Neither the Arabs nor the Muslims have anything to do with it. The Judeocide took place in the heart of Europe. If Europeans and especially Germans indeed feel unease with their collective past, they may have to consider providing the Jewish Israeli citizens with German passports rather than supplying the Israeli Navy with three brand new submarines furnished with nuclear facilities. Somehow, Germany prefers the latter option. I’ll let the reader guess why.
It is rather crucial to mention as well that the Palestinians are ‘Hitler’s last victims’. No one can doubt the clear fact that it was indeed the Holocaust that transformed Zionism from being a marginal aspiration ideology into the motor and justification of a racist nationalist State. Thus, again, if the Germans feel uncomfortable with their past, it is the Palestinians whom they must look after. Let’s not stop there: if the Palestinians are indeed the last victims of Hitler, why aren’t they entitled to develop their own Shoah narrative?
If I am correct here, then the unique left solidarity movement, which suggests accommodating a pro-Palestinian stand together with Auschwitz religious worshiping is doomed to failure (Al Ahram Weekly guest commentary). The two are in conflict, not to say in contradiction. As long as Auschwitz fails to become a categorical ethical insight as well as an historic chapter, it is Auschwitz itself that stands in the core of the Zionist-led oppression of the Arab people and Palestinians in particular.
 I would suggest at this stage to re-introduce Kant’s ethics. According to Kant, moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he defined as the Categorical Imperative: “Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law.” Moral judgment is dependent on a procedure of self-reflection rather than the acceptance of a rule.
This article originally appeared on Gilad Atzmon's website www.gilad.co.uk.Gilad Atzmon was born a Jew in Israel, grew up in Jerusalem and currently lives in London. During his military service in the Israeli army he witnessed the suffering of the Palestinian people at first hand and as a result became a committed anti-Zionist. He is renowned as a jazz musician (saxophone and clarinet) and as a composer. He has also written two novels, A Guide to the Perplexed and My One and Only Love.
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