MIDDLE EAST REALITY CHECK: “Holocaust studies make the grade” 28Dec10 December 28, 2010

Middle East Reality Check (MERC) blog -  28 December 2010

A campaign by elements of the Israel lobby to have the Jewish component of the Nazi genocide, aka ‘The Holocaust’*, included in Australia’s national history curriculum (see my 12/4/10 post Sam Lipski’s National Curriculum) has finally borne fruit.

[* In his invaluable book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2000), Norman Finkelstein calls ‘The Holocaust’ “an ideological representation of the Nazi genocide.”]

According to the Australian Jewish News: “The official inclusion of Holocaust studies in the new national curriculum has received a cautious welcome from community leaders and educators. The curriculum was approved by a Ministerial Council meeting in Canberra and endorsed by state and territory education ministers last week… Holocaust studies have been included in two areas of the history curriculum – as part of the Australian immigration story to be taught in year 6 and as part of World War II studies in year 10. Sydney Jewish Museum education director Avril Alba described the inclusion of Shoah studies in the new curriculum as ‘a positive step forward… [I]t provides teachers and students with an excellent opportunity to study both the context within which the Holocaust took place and the radicalising effect of the war.” (Green light for Shoah studies, 17/12/10)

A cautious welcome?

Ah, “[b]ut [Alba] voiced concern over the limited time the subject is given in the curriculum, saying ‘the challenge for teachers will be to both contextualise the unfolding of the Holocaust within the broader context of World War II but also to point out its distinctive features’.” (ibid)

OK, Avril, to accomodate your concern, we’ll omit the bit in the WWII depth study which goes: “An overview of the causes and course of WWII.”

Ah, but “[t]he Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) also expressed reservations. ‘The revised content description appears to be an improvement on the original draft’, said ECAJ executive director Peter Wertheim. ‘One difficulty is that study of the Holocaust is limited to the years 1942-1945. This is inaccurate and omits the Nazi program of mass shootings and other atrocities between 1939 and 1941 in which 1.5 million Jews were systematically put to death’.” (ibid)

OK, Peter, 1939 through to 1945 it is. We’ll just drop the bit about the “use of the atomic bomb.”

Ah, but “Pratt Foundation chief executive and AJN columnist Sam Lipski earlier this year cited concerns about how the syllabus might be delivered if the Shoah wasn’t contextualised. ‘Without also studying who the Jews were, how they began, and what they’ve had to say about themselves and to the world over 3 millennia, a generation of Australians will gain a misleading picture’, Lipski wrote in an AJN column.” (ibid)

OK, Sam, we fully understand your concern, and you’ll be pleased to hear that we’re seriously considering dropping the history syllabus altogether and replacing it with Jewish/Israel studies.

Seriously though, if dunum by dunum, goat by goat is your mantra and modus operandi, can enough ever really be enough?

Not that I’m the only one ever to have had reservations about The Holocaust being used to promote Israel. Even acclaimed Nazi hunter and Zionist Simon Wiesenthal, in Jerusalem for the 1961 trial of Eichmann, had initial misgivings: “Wiesenthal did not object to the tendency to present the extermination of the Jews as a vindication of Zionist ideology and as justification for the existence of the State of Israel. But Israel’s goal of gaining a monopoly over the legacy of the Holocaust aroused a sense of discomfort in him.” (Simon Wiesenthal: The Life & Legends, Tom Segev, 2010, p 153)

This discomfort, of course, didn’t last long. When, in the wake of Israel’s conquest of the West Bank in 1967, it was suggested to Wiesenthal that it was “tragic” that an attempt to redress the injustice to the Jews by creating Israel had given rise to a fresh injustice to the Palestinians, he was adamant: “No, it is not tragic. The creation of Israel was the only possible and the only correct reaction to Auschwitz. There had to be a country in the world where the Jews were the landlords instead of tolerated guests.” (ibid, p 219)

If the Wiesenthal line on The Holocaust is the one advanced in our year 10 classrooms, Zionist propagandists will have achieved a significant victory. One can but wonder at the contents of any curriculum support material that might be sent by ECAJ to our schools. On the other hand, if classroom discussion of one terrible injustice turns to discussion of another… watch this space.

Anyway, for teachers of year 10 history out there who are serious about their subject and who may have been wondering just what the real significance of the Nazi genocide is, here’s our big picture man, James Petras: “The Nazi genocide against the Jews is an example of the ruling elite victimizing a minority population to create cross-class cohesion, diverting the masses from internal labor-capital conflicts and the real or potential costs of imperialist policies. To deflect their focus on capitalist exploitation, the ruling elite directed worker and middle class discontent to Jewish bankers and capitalists. This propaganda was especially effective in professions like medicine and the retail trade in which competition for positions and market shares between Jews and non-Jews was especially intense. The transition from intensified exclusion and ethnic discrimination to the practice of genocide coincided with Germany’s massive military, economic and political expansion and conquest of the late 1930s and early 1940s. As the costs of empire-building increased, so did the need to deflect the increasing anger and anxiety of the population by giving their ills a perpetrator’s face (the Jews), and giving them lower ranking populations to despise (the Slavs). Parallel to the Jewish-Nazi Holocaust, the German imperial conquest of great swaths of Eastern Europe and especially Russia led to an even greater holocaust, the killing of some 9-10 million Slavs and the enslavement of many millions more to the imperial-capital war machine.” (Genocides, Cohesion & Imperialism, in Rulers & Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists, Militants, James Petras, 2007, p 77)

Chew on that, Peter, Sam.

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