This is for Norman Finkelstein and by extension everyone who applauds him when he comes to speak on college campuses.
I’m not here to debate his stance on Israel and Zionism – there is really only one thing that I want address within this post. My issue with Finkelstein and his supporters is nothing more than a simple number.
No, it's not six million, as in six million murdered Jews, killed during the Holocaust – a fact that Finkelstein casts doubt upon by referring to "six million" in quotation marks. Finkelstein has also gone on record that Holocaust denier David Irving – who believes there were no gas chambers and that Auschwitz was a "tourist attraction" – is an "indispensable" historian. No, this isn’t some unbelievable fiction from George Orwell’s 1984; this is actually what this man thinks.
Dr. F Stein in action
Nor is the number 2,000, as in the nearly 2,000 years since Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were forced to flee their ancient homeland. The desire to return home has been expressed during Jewish festivals, in Jewish prayers three times daily and in countless other customs, many centuries prior to the rise of modern Zionism.
Finkelstein would have everyone that attend his rallies believe that the state of Israel is a modern colonial invention fueled by Holocaust guilt, rather than the truth which is the exact reverse – that the Holocaust was a disaster fueled by the lack of an independent Jewish homeland/army.
But no, that isn’t it either. The number I want to discuss is “43334.”
“43334” is the tattoo my grandmother received courtesy of the real “Holocaust Industry” – that of the Nazi’s Final Solution for her, me and every other “undesirable,” whether we lived during the 1940’s or are descended from someone who did.
Was she lying about how she got that number? Did she fake the anxiety she felt every time a dog barked because it reminded her of German Shepherds the Nazis used? Was she in on some global conspiracy when she was emotionally unavailable for her children?
What about my grandfather? Did he invent stories about his first wife, infant daughter, mother, father, three of his four brothers and countless others he knew, that disappeared into the flames of Birkenau? Was he lying when he would talk about being nearly starved to death and beaten within an inch of his life? Was he plotting a Zionist conspiracy when he would often wake up in the middle of the night and jump out of bed in terror, forced back in time during yet another terrible Holocaust flashback?
Why should survivors have to tolerate these efforts to de-legitimize their memories by Finkelstein, Irving and the rest of the Holocaust Denial/Minimization Industry? Whether you want to admit it to yourselves or not, de-legitimizing the survivors is precisely what Mr. Finkelstein does.
This is what he is doing when he refers to Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel as a “clown” in the “Holocaust circus.” There is a reason why white supremacist sites like Stormfront and neo-Nazi darling David Duke cite Finkelstein regularly – his life’s work minimizes the suffering of survivors and actually makes it worse forcing them to live through the spectacle of seeing rooms full of college students cheering for his attacks on them.
This isn’t an issue of questioning his right to criticize Israel – although a rational person would have to question why in order to criticize governmental policy someone would have to attack not the government but rather the historical, documented past itself.
Or maybe it isn’t so irrational. Orwell did teach us after all that “he who controls the past, controls the future.” By “vaporizing” memories, by converting the victims of the Holocaust into “unpersons,” Finkelstein makes it easier for his fans to not deal with reality. This frees them to practice the kind of cognitive dissonance necessary for a "liberal" American university student to support the actions of totalitarian movements like Hamas, Hizballah and others who have sworn to erase a population of six million Jews.
The fact that students gleefully welcome this distortion of history as “scholarly” is a disgrace not only to the memories of Holocaust victims but also to legitimate historians everywhere. This isn’t about Zionism, it’s about preserving the memories of those who perished in the Holocaust – and respecting those who survived.
It’s also about the stark realization that had the Nazis succeeded, I would not be here to write this post. And in this very real way, Finkelstein attacks us all.
This post was adapted from a letter to the editor at the Daily Targum
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