Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Tenure Killer

“The Holocaust Industry – Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” by Norman Finkelstein, 2nd Edition, 2003

This is an example of a book that kills tenure.  Finkelstein was famously denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago for publishing this book.  Which only proves what most self-censoring academics already know - there are political litmus tests for professors too.  After reading this book, you certainly know this was not from a case of scholastic weakness.

Essentially, Finkelstein’s political mistake from the DePaul Administration's point of view was to look at Jewish people and Jewish politics from a class point of view. It is no secret that especially well-off Jews during World War II collaborated or dealt with the Nazis in order to save their own skin.   Every Jewish community saw this phenomenon. And it might even be said that control led to much of the passivity in the general Jewish population.  At the time, their name was ‘Judenrat.’

This same strata controls Israel today, especially through the Likud Party, and their ideology became Zionism.  Left-Zionism has all but lost credibility.  Zionism, which was first allied with British imperialism, made the transition to U.S. allegiance, especially after the 1967 war.  Today, Zionism and U.S. imperial policies are identical, though the rhetoric occasionally varies. The “holocaust industry,” as Finkelstein calls it (as distinct from the actual Nazi holocaust) is part of the ideology of present-day Zionism, which basically contends that Jewish people are allowed to do anything they want in order to prevent ‘another holocaust’ in Israel. The rightist Likud is the most aggressive in promoting this ideology, but even Labor ultimately believes it. In other words, all Jews are united due to the Holocaust – so Jewish bourgeois class rule becomes invisible.  It's all Jews against everyone else.  Trotsky, in his opposition to Zionism, called Palestine a ‘death trap’ for Jews.  And indeed, Palestine/Israel has brought almost 70 years of additional war, occupation and misery to Jews and especially Palestinians. This is not what a real 'promised land' looks like.  The greatest threat to Israel right now is the very aggressive policies of Zionism - a self-inflicted wound which guarantees more years of continued strife.

Finkelstein discusses the ideology of the Holocaust industry, which contends that the Holocaust is unlike any other event in history – beyond logic, beyond history itself.  Other examples of ethnic cleansing or liquidation are discounted. In other words, Jews are the ‘best’ at suffering – as well as everything else, so it becomes an essential component of Israeli nationalism.   An example of the consequences of this position is that organizations that make up the Holocaust Industry do not recognize the liquidation of the Armenians by the Turks as an example of genocide, and opposed efforts in the U.S. Congress to make the Armenian question important in U.S. / Turkish relations.  It is also reflected in the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., where almost no one but Jewish people are mentioned throughout the whole exhibit, even though millions of others perished in camps or mass executions.  The Industry instead extends the definition of a ‘Holocaust’ survivor to any Jewish person involved in World War II and even beyond that – and no one else. 

Of course behind every political rationale is a materiel interest.  Finkelstein goes into excruciating detail on the reparations negotiations conducted by the Holocaust industry.  It is an industry because many of the sponsoring organizations, lead by its CEO, Eli Wiesel, made huge amounts of money through negotiations with Switzerland, Germany and others.  And the kicker here is that much of the money does not go to the dwindling ranks of actual holocaust  ‘survivors’ but to the organizations themselves, for education, expenses, legal costs – and salaries.  Finkelstein is especially humorous in explaining how the numbers of ‘holocaust survivors’ are always estimated upwards, as are the alleged amounts of non-survivor money deposited in, for instance, Swiss banks, all without much actual evidence. Finkelstein describes the Swiss banking industry being forced to go through a $.5B audit, which found far fewer Holocaust survivor accounts than the Holocaust Industry was demanding. And then the audit was thrown out.  Self-righteous U.S. politicians were key in allying with the Industry in what Finkelstein calls an extortion attempt against the Swiss banks.  The Industry also went after Germany with doctored numbers, even though Germany was already paying reparations to actual individuals.

Finkelstein makes the acerbic point that if so many Jewish people survived the holocaust, as per the figures by the Industry, then perhaps the Holocaust was not so destructive!  He insists it is just another form of holocaust denial. 

Did the Holocaust industry make the same demands for an audit and reparations of U.S. or British banks regarding survivor account assets left in the U.S. or Britain?  Of course they didn’t.  Yet as much money was deposited in U.S. banks by deceased Jews as in Swiss banks. And here we can see the craven politics behind this so-called dispassionate and ethical attempt to help survivors.  Essentially nothing must touch the American behemoth and its Israeli ally.  As Finkelstein points out, do the same U.S. government or political figures who block with the Industry on these European reparations consider reparations for slavery or Native American indigenous people or the millions of U.S.-caused dead in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia?  Of course not.  A double-standard is the permanent hallmark of ‘humanitarian’ imperialism. Only useful on certain occasions.

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog, May 5, 2012

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