MYTHS AND FACTS

THE JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY – TWO MYTHS AND TWO FACTS

# 1 MYTH

The Holocaust was not unique to Jews; Palestinians are also victims of genocide.

# 1 FACT

Palestinian propagandists sometimes accuse Israel of committing genocide and compare what has and is  happening to the Palestinians to the Holocaust.

The British Labour Party’s John McDonnell, for example, accused Israel in 2012 of “an attempt at genocide against the Palestinians” (Harry Yorke, “John McDonnell condemned for claiming Israel was attempting to carry out ‘genocide’ against Palestinians,” The Telegraph, (August 8, 2018). Similarly, Haidar Eid called Israel’s policies in Gaza “genocidal” (Mondoweiss, August 3, 2018). Michael Hoffman and Moshe Lieberman authored a book, The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians, which purports to document “the horrendous atrocities which the Israelis visit upon the Palestinians.”

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as engaging in any of the following “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Israel has never engaged in any campaign to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people. If you have any doubt consider that during the British Mandate, there were 1.3 million Arabs. According to CIA estimates, the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza today is nearly 5 million (The World Factbook, CIA). If Israel were engaged in genocide, it has been a dismal failure.

Israel welcomed all Palestinians who remained in the country after it declared independence as equal citizens. Since then, Israel has repeatedly made peace offers to the Palestinians in the disputed territories in hope of coexisting with them. 

The Palestinians may suffer certain deprivations as a result of the conflict with Israel, and some have been killed, but there is no evidence Israel has engaged in any mass killing of Palestinians or has ever demonstrated any intent to “destroy” the Palestinians.

The treatment of the Palestinians, harsh as it may sometimes be, is nothing like what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is true that genocide has occurred in places such as Turkey, Cambodia and Rwanda; nevertheless, the Holocaust was unique. The eminent Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim explained what made it distinctive:

  • The “Final Solution” was designed to exterminate every single Jewish man, woman and child. The only Jews who would have conceivably survived had Hitler been victorious were those who somehow escaped discovery by the Nazis.
  • Jewish birth (actually mere evidence of “Jewish blood”) was sufficient to warrant the punishment of death. With the possible exception of Roma, Jews were the only people killed for the “crime” of existing.
  • The extermination of the Jews had no political or economic justification. It was not a means to any end; it was an end in itself. 
  • The people who carried out the “Final Solution” were primarily average citizens (Emil Fackenheim, To Mend the World, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994).

 

# 2 MYTH

Israel was created to compensate the Jews for the Holocaust.

# 2 FACT

The Jewish claim to statehood in their homeland dates to ancient times when the Israelite and Hasmonean kingdoms ruled for more than 400 years in the region that later came to be known as Palestine. The Jewish people never left the area but were forced to live under the rule of a succession of conquerors. In the late 19th century, the Zionist political movement was founded with the aim of reestablishing Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

In 1917, the Balfour Declaration endorsed the creation of a Jewish home in Palestine and garnered the support of the United States and other nations before being incorporated in the League of Nations mandate. During the British Mandate, before Germany invaded Poland, more than 350,000 Jews came to Palestine. Meanwhile, in the interwar period, the Jewish community created the infrastructure for a future state. Professor Dov Waxman noted:

The chronological proximity of the Holocaust and Israel’s establishment has led many people to assume that the two events are causally connected and that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. Contrary to this popular belief, however, a Jewish state would probably have emerged in Palestine, sooner or later, with or without the Holocaust (Dov Waxman, “Was Israel created because of the Holocaust?” Oxford Academic, May 18, 2019).

The Holocaust demonstrated the need for a haven where Jews would control their own fate and not be dependent on the goodwill of others. It also gave the quest for statehood greater urgency and generated sympathy for the survivors in the American Jewish community and the general public. This created a certain amount of pressure on the Truman administration to support partition. Truman explained his position in his memoirs, “My purpose was then and later to help bring about the redemption of the pledge of the Balfour Declaration and the rescue of at least some of the victims of Nazism.” He said his policy was neither pro-Arab nor pro-Zionist, it was American because “it aimed at the peaceful solution of a world trouble spot” and “was based on the desire to see promises kept and human misery relieved” (Harry S. Truman, Years of Trial and Hope, vol. 2, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1956, p. 157).

In May 1947, Soviet delegate Andrei Gromyko said:

The fact that no Western European State has been able to ensure the defense of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners explains the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own State. It would be unjust not to take this into consideration and to deny the right of the Jewish people to realize this aspiration (“Discussion of the report of the First Committee on the establishment of a special committee on Palestine,” United Nations documents A/307 and A/307/Corr. 1).

This statement was disingenuous; the Soviet Union’s support for the creation of a Jewish state had nothing to do with the Holocaust or compassion for the Jews. The Soviets were primarily interested in seeing the British leave Palestine.

The British were clearly unmoved by the Holocaust; they prevented Jews from going to Palestine to escape the Nazis and opposed Jewish statehood.

“It is not the case that if there had been no Holocaust there would not have been a State of Israel,” Irwin Cotler observed. “It is the other way around, and we should never forget it: that if there had been a State of Israel – the indigenous homeland for an indigenous Jewish people, there would not have been a Holocaust or the many horrors of Jewish and human history” (Irwin Cotler, “Auschwitz 75 years later: Universal lessons,” Jerusalem Post, January 22, 2020).

 

IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO STICK TO THE FACTS CANADA

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.  For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee.  Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.”  (Psalms 122:1-9)

 

 

Phinehas