Sunday, 27 January 2019


Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.  In yesterday's Irish Times, articles were published including a piece by the liberal Zionist and gallery owner Oliver Sears, whose mother is a Holocaust survivor, and an interview with American historian Deborah Lipstadt by Hugh Linehan.   The interview with Lipstadt - who is best known for her legal confrontation with the Holocaust denier David Irving - is rather too gentle with her willingness to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

There simply is no doubt that this conflation is widely used nowadays to police dissent on the policies and nature of the State of  Israel.  Israel has successfully 'weaponised' the Holocaust and its commemoration as cover for  objectionable elements of its foreign policy.  So,  in the same Irish Times in recent days,  we have been told that the Israeli government has given Ireland's ambassador in Tel Aviv a severe dressing down because of the discussion in Dail Eireann of Senator Frances Black's Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill.  The Israeli government deems the bill 'anti-Semitic'.   It seems not to understand that  the Irish government is itself against the bill but that in a parliamentary democracy of the kind Israel so often wishes to proclaim itself an exemplar, a government cannot necessarily (fortunately) dictate what bills are brought forward by the opposition.

Commemoration is always political, as we know very well in Ireland.    The Holocaust must be remembered,  but it should not be hypostatized into an historically unapproachable, transcendental and ontologically unique event which is beyond analysis.  Arno Mayer is one of the great historians of the Nazi extermination of European Jews.  Here he considers this issue in an essay reflecting in 1989 on his masterpiece Why Did The Heavens Not Darken?

Memory and History: On the Poverty of Remembering and Forgetting the Judeocide