Since this Sunday ZGram goes to major media as well as to my regular supporters, I need to reiterate that I was gone for 14 days, partly to observe the Zundelsite "Human Rights" Tribunal hearings in Canada, and that I can't sift through all the news of the past 14 days for this issue of Revisionist Week in Review. The wealth of material is simply overwhelming!
Instead, I will give you an update on Professor Norman Finkelstein's "The Holocaust Industry" by bringing you excerpts of reviews and interviews posted on his site.
Up front, here are the bestseller stats:
CompuServe Incorporated (17)
I have ***never*** seen any indication of how the book is doing in Germany. Have you?
Now to the excerpts:
THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
By Norman Finkelstein; Verso: 160 pp., $23
* Los Angeles Times Book Review (11/5/2000) by Adam Bresnick:
"Given the mainstreaming of the Holocaust, has there arisen, as Norman Finkelstein scandalously claims, a "Holocaust Industry" that exploits the memory of Auschwitz for ideological reasons? So it is that we find ourselves in a curious spot, for despite the relentless archival work of historians, the facts of the Holocaust must be reiterated against the claims of the deniers, just as the significance of these facts remains a matter of apparently endless contention."
"(I)t is a central tenet of "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections of the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that historians, as much as deniers, are playing games with the discourse of the Holocaust. Finkelstein's book is a polemic designed to raise the hackles of bien-pensant liberals and conservatives alike."
"Finkelstein takes aim at the American Jewish establishment, which he believes has used the Holocaust in order to defend an increasingly militarized Israel and to curry favor with American elites."
"In Finkelstein's dialectical account, as Israel assumed center stage in U.S. Mideast policy, "the Holocaust proved to be the perfect weapon for deflecting criticism of Israel." In order to assist Israel in flexing its military muscle, the American Jewish establishment invoked the memory of the terrible annihilation of European Jews."
"In a final turn of the screw, Finkelstein argues that American Jews' commitment to Israel and their summoning of the Holocaust are ruses that barely camouflage what he takes to be the real agenda: ensuring the steady expansion of Jewish power in the United States and of Israeli might in the Mideast."
"(I)s it really the case that Jewish elites dictate the beliefs of the Jewish community, as Finkelstein implies? Finkelstein reifies power so thoroughly that it is hard to know where it stops and where it begins. Though he is right to decry the manner in which the Holocaust allowed the ancient theme of Jewish chosenness to reassert itself, surely Finkelstein should be able to see how the claim "Jews are better" just barely masks the claim "Jews are worse," for the very bravado of the statement testifies to an essential anxiety. Any Jew living in America knows the dialectic of grandiosity and abjection that has inspired Jewish artists from Woody Allen to Philip Roth."
"Finkelstein is at his best when he skewers the pieties of those who would sacralize the Holocaust by making it into a kind of inverted mystery religion. Among these is Wiesel. . ."
"Finkelstein offers a stinging account of the hoaxes and hucksters who have profited from the Holocaust, saving particular vitriol for Benjamin Wilkomirski (a.k.a. Bruno Doessekker), whose fraudulent memoir, "Fragments," still has defenders, including Israel Gutman of Yad Vashem, the Israeli museum of the Holocaust."
"Finkelstein is finally right to point to the essential strangeness of the American Holocaust Museum: "Imagine the wailing accusations of hypocrisy here were Germany to build a national museum in Berlin to commemorate not the Nazi genocide but American slavery or the extermination of the Native Americans."
The LA Times Book Review of December 1-7, 2000 by Greg Goldin:
"(Finkelstein) declares the recent successful pursuit of multibillion-dollar reparations from German industrial giants and Swiss bankers "an outright extortion racket." Finkelstein's downright pugilistic book delivers a wallop - mostly because few authors have had the courage or nerve to say, as he does, that the Nazi genocide has been distorted and robbed of its true moral lessons and instead has been put to use as 'an indispensable ideological weapon.' It's a provocative thesis that makes you want to reject it even as you are compelled to keep reading by the strength of his case and the bravura of his assertions."
"What Finkelstein calls "The Holocaust" - the packaged story as distinguished from the actual historical events - has become a 'prize alibi' for Israeli war crimes, a cudgel for money-hungry Jewish organizations and profiteering lawyers, and a spark plug for the recrudescent ranks of anti-Semites in Europe."
"(I)n making these contentions [Finkelstein] has revived a debate that has roiled the Jewish community off and on for five decades. Was the Holocaust unique? Or was it mundane, and all too human?"
"(T)he American Jewish establishment instinctively understood that a shroud of victimhood could immunize Israel in its atrocious acts against the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world."
"Making the Holocaust unique allowed what Finkelstein calls 'Holocaust campaigners' - most notably, Elie Wiesel - to claim sovereignty over this 'valuable property.' In effect, the Holocaust became a crown of virtue."
"Finkelstein angrily denounces [reparations] payments as part of the 'Holocaust-restitution racket.' The Swiss, he says, were 'easy prey.'...This amounted to 'the greatest robbery in the history of mankind.'"
* Then there is the Marc Ellis book review. [This review (is slated for) the quarterly journal Global Dialogue, volume 2, number 4, autumn 2000] Title: "The Holocaust and the Trivialisation of Memory":
(Marc H. Ellis is professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University, Waco, Texas.)
"I found Finkelstein's chronicles of the intifada and the Palestinians' aborted struggle for a full and equal state alongside Israel insightful and well written. Interweaving his own journey as a child of Holocaust survivors, his narrative was gripping. He brought to the surface what I increasingly had become aware of in my own life: that many Jews had crossed over into solidarity with the Palestinian people and that more than a few of those who had done this were children of Holocaust survivors."
"(W)e shared a history of sorts, not only being linked together and often mistaken for one another, but being pursued by parts of the Jewish establishment that seek to silence criticism of Israel. We also shared the distinctive quality, fairly new in Jewish life, of being dismissed and condemned by leaders of the Jewish community without being heard or read."
"Whether an industry or not, Finkelstein had certainly confronted the Holocaust as an interpretative framework and in a controversial way."
"In some ways, (Holocaust) conferences typified criticisms that Finkelstein and others had of the study and use of the Holocaust, as Jewish scholars dwelled on past Jewish suffering, using the Holocaust to shield the Jewish community of the present from accountability."
"Could a Jewish future be fashioned with integrity and ethics if we did not confess our sins against the Palestinian people? Would the Holocaust, in its enormity, serve as a warning to the future if the heirs of the Holocaust themselves did not take heed of those lessons and apply them to themselves?"
"Finkelstein sees both the silencing and the articulation of mass murder as different strategies in different time periods to promote Jewish economic and political ascendancy. The same strategies were applied to Israel."
"Before the 1967 war, Israel was seen by the American Jewish establishment as divisive and promoting an untenable charge of dual loyalty. Thus, with some exceptions, Israel was downplayed, as was the Nazi era, until Israel, too, became a vehicle for Jewish empowerment in America. Thus, the twinning of the Holocaust and Israel in Jewish life and thought, accepted as so defining of Jewish identity today, was neither natural nor actual until both became useful to the American Jewish establishment."
"Finkelstein charts the continuing development since 1967 of an entire political, economic and intellectual apparatus, in his understanding an industry, to promote The Holocaust-and thus Israel as well-as essential to Jewish, Western and American identity. Though couched in moral terms as reparations for historic anti-Jewishness and support of an innocent, beleaguered Israel, the Holocaust industry is really an elaborate cover for promoting Jewish class interests, often over against other suffering communities in the United States and abroad."
"Finkelstein asserts that, contrary to popular opinion, the silence imposed on the actual survivors in his childhood was better than the trumpeted speech about the event that today is treated so reverentially. The Holocaust industry is the ultimate profanation of the victims of the Nazi holocaust, and the silence about Israeli policies towards the Palestinians which the industry enforces on Jewish dissidents is part of this profanation. Sacralising the Nazi holocaust and declaring it off limits to rational investigation, at the same time limiting its lessons for the future by declaring The Holocaust to be the exclusive province of the Jewish community, is, for Finkelstein, a form of idolatry."
"As with all idolatry, financial and political power is evident. Finkelstein traces the ascendancy of Holocaust consciousness over the last decades as a way of mainstreaming and empowering Jewish class interests but also, and this is increasing today, as a financial club against European governments."
"The result was the mobilisation of American public opinion, government and financial institutions to demand an accounting and payback, ostensibly for survivors in their last years of life, but in Finkelstein's understanding, as a way of enriching Jewish institutions and elite individuals, including lawyers and intellectuals."
"Finkelstein is not shy about his claims and deliberately uses provocative language to demonstrate his points. His three chapters carry the following headings: "Capitalizing The Holocaust"; "Hoaxers, Hucksters, and History"; "The Double Shakedown". Nor is he shy about naming personalities and belittling them. Elie Wiesel is his most prominent target. Finkelstein accuses him of being an economically driven, politically naive charlatan, a pathetic character whose literary abilities are few and whose travel on Concorde and $25,000 fees for speaking on the Holocaust are symbolic of the public trivialisation of the Nazi holocaust and, on a personal level, a degrading of the harrowing experience of Finkelstein's parents."
" Now in his seventies, Wiesel was clearly under assault and even some of the participants at the conference, while in no way agreeing with Finkelstein, even vehemently opposing his views, questioned Wiesel's relevance. For the short presentation he made emphasised the assault on Holocaust memory, as if the memory itself was fading; and alluding directly to but without naming Finkelstein, he deplored those who criticised him and "hated" Israel."
"Wiesel's presence was shadowed by Finkelstein's book and the publicity surrounding it in the United Kingdom. Was the "Remembering for the Future" conference part of the Holocaust industry? Were all those in attendance, including myself, part of this industry? If this was an industry, trivialising the memory of the dead even as we invoked their memory, had it always been so? Had the best of intentions been co-opted, and had the leading figures of this industry, once subversive and shunned by the Jewish establishment, become the establishment they once fought? Had they lost their souls in the process? Finkelstein's prophetic views and outrageous rhetoric came together in a package. Did they tell the whole story, condemning The Holocaust as it has come to be revered? Or can there be a deeper meaning to his words, a meaning that seeks the essence of remembrance without shielding injustice and idolatry?"
"Finkelstein cautions Jews and others to be careful with memory. In certain contexts, memory can be subversive; in others, memory can shield the status quo. When individuals and communities become vested with memory as a form of identity and specialness, then other suffering threatens to displace the centrality of our experience. Instead of a bridge of solidarity to others who are suffering in the present, suffering in the past can become a badge of honour, protecting us from the challenges that are before us. Then our witness, originally powerful, opening questions about God and power, becomes diluted, can be seen as fake, contrived, even willfully so."
"An industry grows up around you, honours you, and at the same time uses your witness for other reasons. In the end a confusion results, externally and internally, until the witness himself can no longer differentiate between the world of interpretation he helped articulate and the world that now speaks in his name."
"Clearly, one can only feel ambivalent about the discussion and teaching of the Holocaust as we enter the twenty-first century. To have the Holocaust part of Jewish success, to have the victims of the Holocaust become part of Jewish empowerment, is unsettling. To speak of the Holocaust without confessing our sins towards the Palestinian people and seeking a real justice with them is a hypocrisy that debases us as Jews. Surely, the ultimate trivialisation is the use of memory to oppress others and this, rather than the "industry", is responsible for the difficulties facing those who seek to communicate the historic suffering of European Jews.
And, finally, in Finkelstein's own words, An Exchange with Burt Neuborne, Lead Blackmailer for the Holocaust Industry" and Commentary senior editor, Gabriel Schoenfeld. (The Nation magazine published two of their letters in response to Christopher Hitchens's column, September 18/25, 2000. It subsequently published Finkelstein's response):
"The serious and personal nature of their accusations warrants a rejoinder.
"Consider that to justify its massive new claims for reparations, the Holocaust industry has radically redefined the term "Holocaust survivor." Originally it designated those who suffered the unique trauma of the Jewish ghettos, concentration camps and slave labor camps, often in sequence. The best historians put the figure, at war's end, for these Holocaust survivors at about 100,000. Those still alive today number perhaps a quarter of this figure and are on average 80 years old. Yet, compare the proposed distribution plan for the Swiss compensation monies that was just released. A specially appended "Statement of Burt Neuborne" praises its "meticulously researched" findings. In a Weimar-like inflation, this plan puts the figure for Holocaust survivors still alive today at nearly a million."
Thought for the Day:
"Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful."
Back to Table of Contents of the Dec. 2000 ZGrams