(January 29, 2018 / JNS) Last Saturday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date, which commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, is the one most of the world uses to remember the Shoah, even if Israel and most Jewish communities primarily employ another date a week after Passover in the Hebrew calendar for Yom HaShoah.
Given the enormity of the event concerned, it’s not inappropriate to speak of both as important days of remembrance. The problem is that so many of the mournful and resolute speeches and statements uttered by international leaders on Jan. 27 are so laden with hypocrisy that it is debatable whether we’d be better off without giving so many of those in Europe or at the United Nations who are actually uninterested in applying the lessons of the Holocaust an opportunity to parade their virtue.
The irony here is that most of the attention given this date last year was devoted to denouncing the White House for an inappropriate Holocaust Day statement. It was a testimony to the chaos and incompetence of the early days of the Trump White House (though, admittedly, things have not entirely improved on that score in subsequent months) that it managed to put out a document on the subject that failed to mention Jews.
That deplorable omission became the centerpiece for the argument put forward by some Trump critics that alleged the statement was a dog whistle to anti-Semites and therefore in some way responsible for a series of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers around the nation. Once those threats were found to be the work of a disturbed Israeli teenager, the claim that President Donald Trump was fomenting anti-Semitism was quickly forgotten. But administration critics are always looking for a way to depict it as offending Jews, such as the made-up Twitter controversy in which Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks about Israel rising from the ashes of the Holocaust was claimed to be an insult to dead Jews.
But the interesting thing about these kerfuffles is how little the pro forma of expressions of outrage about what happened during the Holocaust correlates with any actual interest in standing up against Jew-hatred or preventing new Holocausts.
Few forgave Trump for his obdurate refusal to apologize for the White House statement or for any of his comments that were deeply offensive. But when it comes to actual policy, Trump has proven himself a stout friend of Israel eliminating the “daylight” that existed between the U.S. and the Jewish state under his predecessor. He’s also an unapologetic opponent of Iran—the nation that has been most devoted to promoting Holocaust denial while simultaneously plotting to perpetrate a new one on the Jews of Israel whom they have marked for extinction—rather than someone dedicated to a détente with Tehran.
Can the same thing be said for many of the leaders who spoke on Holocaust Day this year?
The same European Parliament that solemnly marked Holocaust Day actually invited an Iranian leader well-known for promoting Holocaust denial as well as being linked to terrorism to speak to them recently. Much of Europe has turned a blind eye to the flaws of the Iran nuclear deal, whose sunset clauses ensure that the theocrats of Tehran will get their weapon of mass destruction before long and bitterly blame both Trump and Israel for trying to disrupt their dreams of détente with the ayatollahs.
Just as outrageous is the way so many in Europe repeat the canard that Israel treats the Palestinians the way the Nazis victimized the Jews. This is not only blatantly false and a diminution of the horror of the Shoah that amounts to Holocaust denial. It is an attempt to hijack the meaning of the worst tragedy in the history of the Jewish people so as to turn it into a weapon that will aid the efforts of those who wish to see Israel destroyed. Yet last fall, the EU Parliament faction that claims to speak for social democracy held an event in which speakers sound this theme and honored a Palestinian terrorist with the podium.
If that were not bad enough, the world is forced to endure lectures about the importance of the Holocaust from people like Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. Israeli opposition party leader Yair Lapid has noted that Wallstrom’s incessant criticisms of Israel are not only disconnected from the reality of the conflict but also spread outright lies, such as her charges that Israel was conducting extrajudicial executions of Palestinian terrorists. She also blamed Israel for the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden, which has escalated to violence, rather than acknowledging that the country’s leaders have legitimized slanders of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
Even if we take the question of Israel-bashing out of the equation, the truth is many of those who talk the most about the lessons of the Holocaust do nothing about real genocides when they happen in our own time. President Barack Obama stood aside as hundreds of thousands were killed in Syria. He and his U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power—who was a champion of the idea of a “responsibility to protect” the victims of mass murder before she was in office—rationalized their indifference but still never missed an opportunity to strike a self-righteous pose about the horrors of the past. The same could be said for the Israel-bashers in Europe who treated the deaths of Palestinians during the course of counter-terror offensives in Gaza as war crimes, but were apathetic about a genuine catastrophe in Syria.
The main point about all the breast-beating about the Holocaust we get from world leaders every January is that so much of it ignores one basic truth. The only real memorial to the Holocaust isn’t any statue or even the museums about the Shoah that have proliferated around the world. It’s the state of Israel, which remains the guarantor of the future of the remnants of the Jewish people that Hitler tried to exterminate. Those hypocrites who forget that or seek to undermine the Jewish state have no business opening their mouths about the Holocaust.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.