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Steinberg: The dark side of remembrance

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Auschwitz main gate. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

For many countries around the world – including Canada – Jan. 27 is marked as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was on this date in 1945 that the Red Army reached and “liberated” whoever was still alive in Auschwitz.

Initially, Jan. 27 focused more on praising the Soviet Union for helping to defeat Nazi Germany than commemorating the victims. After the demise of the U.S.S.R. (which had become a prime mover behind anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism), the day came to focus on actual Holocaust remembrance.

This year, which comes 75 years after the events, the ceremonies and pronouncements will be particularly significant, including a conference with world leaders hosted by Israel’s president in Jerusalem.

A memorial day for the victims of the unimaginable inhumanity of the Nazis and their allies is important, and its recognition by the United Nations in 2005 was a significant achievement, particularly during an era of renewed anti-Semitic attacks, Holocaust denial, revisionism and ignorance.

A day during which much of the world is focused on remembering and reflecting on those horrors certainly makes a difference. But there is also a less noble aspect to the day: for some, active involvement in Holocaust remembrance is used as a shield to protect themselves from criticism for demonizing Israel and promoting new anti-Semitism.

For this group, powerless Jewish victims are easily embraced, while Jews living in a sovereign state and defending themselves against terror are the targets of vilification, boycotts and other forms of demonization.

In describing this hypocrisy, Yehuda Bauer, a professor of Holocaust studies at Hebrew University and one of the world’s most respected Shoah scholars, declared: “Now, of course, they love Jews. Especially dead Jews. The ones who died in the Holocaust, they’re marvellous, they were terrific. Live Jews is something else.”

His observations were specifically directed at BDS activists and self-declared anti-Zionists on university campuses, at the United Nations and in European governments, where the contrast between embracing “dead Jews” while demonizing “live Jews” in Israel is most pronounced.

READ: STEINBERG: LAYING THE BATTLE PLAN FOR FIGHTING GLOBAL ANTI-SEMITISM

On the one hand, these officials are very visible on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, while, on the other, they churn out a constant stream of anti-Israel propaganda. Their goal is to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state, turning it into an international pariah.

For example, this year, UN officials, probably including Secretary General António Guterres (who is not an anti-Semite), will again participate in very moving events for Holocaust Remembrance Day. But inside the UN buildings in New York and Geneva, other officials are preparing their next actions in support of BDS and false accusations of Israeli war crimes at the UN Human Rights Council and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Guterres and others would accomplish much more in the battle against anti-Semitism by taking action against these purveyors of 21st-century Jew-hatred.

This hypocrisy is also very visible among politicians, diplomats and church officials, including many Germans. The same leaders and ambassadors who speak passionately at Holocaust memorials also give groups claiming to promote human rights and humanitarian aid millions of euros to attack the Jewish state.

And their diplomats repeatedly cast their votes in the UN for the Arab-led resolutions that whitewash terror and absurdly target Israel as the world’s worst violator of human rights. (Recently, Canada joined the hypocritical Europeans in voting for a resolution ostensibly promoting Palestinian rights that was co-sponsored by North Korea.)

The practice of embracing dead Jews – the six million Holocaust victims – while demonizing live ones should not be allowed to continue. Attacks on Zionism and Israel must not become a means of balancing statements of sympathy and Holocaust guilt.

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