Tag Archive: holocaust

I am quite aware that such a use of inflammatory words in my title will like as not mean people will not even bother to read anything I write subsequently.  I feel that this is their problem and not mine.  Whilst I appreciate that the word holocaust is generally used to denote genocide on a massive scale such as in Nazi Germany, Rwanda or Bosnia the definition of the word is “any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life” and therefore I feel its use is apposite.

I find it deeply and troublingly ironic that on the weekend of Holocaust Memorial day the BBC and Sky chose to uphold their decision not to broadcast an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee for aid to Gaza in view of the humanitarian crisis that has happened and continues to happen there.  The DEC itself is a group made up of major British charities which generally issues appeals for the severest of catastrophies.  It is usual when the DEC asks the major broadcasters to air an appeal that they do so.  However they reserve the right not to should they consider such broadcast to be against certain guidelines and criteria.

The Director-General of the BBC Mark Thompson issued a statement justifying the BBC’s decision citing concerns “whether aid raised by the appeal could actually be delivered on the ground.”  Since the BBC had similar concerns over the Burmese cyclone appeal but chose after consideration to air the appeal this seems something of a red herring, after all there will always be such concerns after a disaster, the greater the disaster the greater the likelihood of problems and yet of course the greater the need.  That the BBC should have in the end agreed to the Burmese appeal showed this is precedent even when one does not agree with the regime.   The main reason used however was a more cloak and dagger one, that the BBC did not wish to have its “impartiality called into question” as this was an “ongoing news story”.  Again there is precedent of the BBC broadcasting appeals in similar conflict situations as it did in the case of Darfur where there were warring factions, of course there was little support in the UK for either of the particular factions at war in this conflict and therefore this was a non-issue in the political sense.  Likewise the Burmese government would I’m sure have a very different view of the BBC’s impartiality than the editors and Director-General and in fact in the case of Zimbabwe the BBC has been banned for allegedly broadcasting on very partisan lines, would the BBC refuse an appeal on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe on the grounds of the possible impact on impartiality, I think it highly unlikely, but  as has been shown before in a country without political or economic capital there is little prospect of international pressure.

In such cases the BBC will always be accused of bias, after all were it to have broadcasted the appeal there is no doubt that the right-wing lobby and that of the pro-Zionists would attack it for in some ways bolstering Hamas, however the appeal is not for the Palestinian state or its elected representatives it is for humanitarian aid for those within Gaza and few if any are questioning the appalling state of the infrastructure there now.  What seems clear is that faced with a decision to offend the pro-Gaza lobby or the pro-Israel lobby the BBC chose to buckle under the pressure that was likely to come from the latter.  It should not come as a surprise, the pro-Israel lobby is extremely politically and financially powerful, it is also extremely reactionary and frequently uses threats and legal action to prevent any deviation from a Zionist bias.  I have shown how this has impacted on academic freedom before.

The BBC underestimates the very nature of the problem, firstly looking at itself the BBC has set itself open to criticism once again from those who feel the BBC is not representative of the public at large and therefore see no justification in its method of funding through the licence fee.  I have always been a strong advocate of the licence fee in order to preserve at least the structure to be impartial and autonomous even if the incumbent board choose not to use it, in this instance the BBC has weakened my position and that of all those that have previously given it support along these lines.  Secondly and incomparably more important is the failure of Israel and the Zionists to look at the more long term implications of a poverty-stricken infrastructure-starved Palestine.  If this is not the breeding ground for extremism then I am at a loss to explain what is.  How could one possibly expect any young Palestinian now growing up not to see Israel as his/her mortal enemy without a strong and independent education system to help them out of the poverty trap in which they will as things stand inevitably fall?

Poverty breeds anger and anger that is not dealt with or channelled breeds hatred, lack of education breeds ignorance and these two combined breed fascism whether you choose to call it by its name or use a more watered down term like fundamentalism be it political, religious or social.  If you wish to look at an example look no further than the Western world itself where due to the poverty of the working class during the recession-filled 1990s far-right wing parties have seen a resurgence that rivals their catchment in the 1930s.  People choose not to see it that way because the fascists now wear suits not swastikas, they talk about jobs for workers not killing foreigners but underneath the rhetoric the ideals are the same, intolerance, mistrust and anger because they are fuelled by at best ignorance and at worst hatred.  British workers are now standing up against their Italian counterparts rather than standing against a system that would allow the company the ability and the desire to undercut its workforce.

One cannot expect the Israelis to learn the lessons of history as they choose to see themselves only as the victims of it, this is a bad mistake.  The Irish question shows all too well that no matter how much you claim to be refusing to cede to the demands of terrorists if you rule by force you will face armed insurrection.  Had the Irish not chosen to take up arms the British would certainly not have seen the error of their ways and left and unpalatable though it may be had the IRA not waged its campaign on the British mainland in the 1970s and 1980s it is unlikely that the nationalist community in Ulster would have been able to gain a proper voice in the democratic process.  The more you suppress people the more people you will push past breaking point.

Part of the problem is outlined by Henry Siegman in an article published by the London Review Of Books in which he describes the fact that Israel’s version of events is simply not questioned.  Siegman is certainly no anti-semite being a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America, so for him to level this attack in an article entitled Israel’s lies should really make those who acquiesce to the Zionists sit up and take notice.  One need only look to the recent reports concerning Israel’s justification of the bombing of the UN building in Gaza with its spurious claims of having been fired on from the compound.  Whether or not this had been the case there is no question whatsoever that in firing so heavily on the building the Israelis were fully cognisant of the impact this would have on the civilian population.  Personally I would liken the bombing to that of Dublin by the Germans in May 1941, a clear signal sent to ensure that the occupants knew only too well of the consequences of incurring the wrath of the aggressor.

The Israeli response is disproportionate the death toll of Palestinians to Israelis since December stands at more than 10:1 and it is immoral as they are not even bothering to seek military targets as well as firing white phosphorus into civilian areas.  Israel will find itself paying for the atrocities as more Palestinians are drawn to the notion of jihad, and people across the world see Israel as coming ever closer to representing the systematic ethnic cleansing policies of the state of Nazi Germany in whose aftermath it was established.  The settlements already represent the very embodiment of Lebensraum as described by Hitler in Mein Kampf.  The use of more aggressive and inhumane military hardware to massacre the population is not something we have not seen before, indeed phosphorus was itself used in Dresden by the Allies in WWII (because the atom bomb was not yet ready) but at the very time of year we are supposed to be remembering the most significant example of systematic killing in world history and perpetrated by the very people who had suffered this example in the first place I cannot remember the victims of the holocaust without a sense of knowing that we have learnt nothing from the barbarism of our own recent history.

*[I have referred mostly to the BBC thus far in this article to draw a distinction with Sky which one would, with any sense, expect to be wholly biased towards the right-wing agendas of its parent company in much the same way Fox News functions in the United States. It is rather ironic that Sky is suddenly concerned with maintaining a position of political objectivity now when you consider how its parent company has acted over the last twenty-five years.  One cannot call such channels news programmes, they are useful only in so far as they offer the opinions of the neo-conservatives and tolerate little or no dissent of that position, their goal is to indoctrinate not to educate and the “news” they appear to provide is skewed almost exclusively to provide a supporting of the message they want you to hear.]

Further reading – Quotes and reactions to the BBC position; Mainstream Media Headlines surrounding the reaction.

Song Of The Day ~ Julian Lennon – Salt Water

As Used By Extremists Everywhere



The holocaust is an emotive subject for many. It still has the power to shock and cause controversy like few other things across the 20th century. It marked one of the darkest spots in human history, some may say the darkest, but it is, sadly, by no means the only example of man’s inhumanity to man.

I have always found a strange curious interest in those like ‘historian’ David Irving who deny the holocaust, more out of a certain incredulity than anything else.  Having been to Auschwitz and Dachau myself I wonder what these people make of what was otherwise going on here.  What is their explanation for the vast tanks filled with human hair or spectacles or children’s toys or shoes?  And the sheer scale of buildings with their evidence of dense human habitation, how could this have happened across the country using the national railways and all if not part of a concerted, co-ordinated policy?  What could those involved on the German side have to gain from admitting that it took place, surely they should all seek to deny it, furthermore, if extreme right-wing Hitler sympathisers deny it, do they claim that it was never on the agenda at all? I am interested in what the arguments are for such a denial of what appears to be an unequivocal event. 
Is it a matter of personnel, a question of who knew and how systematic was the policy of death?  Here the Wannsee Conference would appear to suggest that it was both fairly widespread and went up to the top.  Furthermore the promotion of Auschwitz commandant SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höß would appear to corroborate this, Höß was no ordinary Wehrmacht pawn, an associate of Heinrich Himmler, member of the Waffen-SS and recipient of both the SS Honour Ring and SS Honour Sword. He was also the first commandant to use Zyklon-B as a method of mass extermination following extensive trials on Soviet PoWs in the Auschwitz camp. 
I am however also interested in why this episode of genocide is afforded such particular historical significance.  It will doubtless remain a major part of 20th century historical teaching for many decades, even centuries to come, which I do not necessarily see as a bad thing, just an inconsistent one if taken in comparison to other such events and their legacy.  It is estimated that 6 million Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps and there are memorials around the world to their memory, as there indeed should be.  But what of the 3 million Soviet PoWs were also murdered along with 500,000 gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically handicapped and countless tens of thousands of trade unionists, communists, socialists, homosexuals and other ‘undesirable elements’.  These groups are given scant mention and are certainly not commemorated widely outside their own communities.  Where is their monument, where is the recognition that under a tyrannical regime whatever guise it choses to hide under the fine line between what constitutes a state normality and what constitutes a threat to security is arbitrary and changeable?  
The denial of the holocaust though is in some countries a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and I am deeply uncomfortable with this because it smacks of the zenith of political correctness.  Any such brushing under the carpet of views is to give them an ill-deserved credence in the consequent interest it generates.  Yet no other event in history is afforded such protection, it would be unthinkable for legislation to exist to prevent historical revisionism for other dark events in human history such as a denial of the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Stalin’s purges, the Crusades, the Irish Potato Famine even the pogroms against the Jews across Europe through the centuries, the systematic extermination of the indigenous populations of North and South America; Australia and many parts of colonial Africa. 
The fact is that this is a case of history viewed from the victor’s perspective.  Whilst I agree it smacks of poor taste to classify the Jews as in any way victors in the Second World War, I mean it in contrast to the German position and the ideals that the Nazis stood for.  Directly after the defeat of Germany the Soviet Union went from friend to enemy and the groups of the handicapped and the gypsies have been for a long time too marginalised and disenfranchised to wield any real influence. 
If one takes Russia under Stalin’s reign from 1924-1953 estimates vary widely as to how many died as a result of the regime ranging at the lower end from 6.5 million right up to estimates of 60 million by people like Solzhenitsyn.  The general consensus is settling at around a staggering 20 million deaths around 3-4 times more than Jews killed under the Nazis.  In fact it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million Soviets died as a result of the Second World War and undisputed that the Soviet Union suffered multiple times more casualties as a result of WWII than any other nation. In fact the 20 million figure would mean that the Soviet Union suffered as many casualties as all the other nations combined. 
The Soviet Union is but one example, directly comparable because it was at the same time in history, I could choose to look at Rwanda where between 500 000 and 1 million were slaughtered in 100 days in 1994 by the Interahamwe. This is systematic extermination far in excess of even what the Nazis or Stalin were able to achieve. And yet in the example of the Soviet Union and the Interahamwe in Rwanda we have not seen worldwide searches to bring the perpetrators to justice, we have not had the International Criminal Court being able to use figures of the nature of Simon Wiesenthal and the like.  And yet the US mounted a widespread manhunt to bring Osama Bin Laden in a man responsible for a fraction of the deaths that say Henry Kissinger directly caused due to the acquiescence to a criminally interventionist foreign policy in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc.  Far from hiding in the mountains somewhere in the Middle East Kissinger tours the lecture circuit earning money and respect.  Presumably because to have got away with such assassination squad diplomacy one must admire his sheer audacity and ability to still be able to sleep at night.
On the flip side we hear a great deal of the genocide attributable to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia’s killing fields and yet far less of the deaths attributable to US foreign policy in the years preceding the Khmer take-over.  The US media had in fact already started decribing the genocide before it had even taken place as Chomsky has shown in Manufacturing Consent.
The number of casualties of the September the 11th disaster stands at 2,752 and this event will be taught across the Western world at least as an event of extreme historical significance, and yet how many people know of the Armenian Genocide (Death toll 1-1.5 million), the Assyrian Genocide (Death toll 500,000-750,000), the Burundi Genocide (Death Toll 50,000-100,000), or the Pontic Greek Genocide (Death Toll 300,000-360,000)? How much about the Bosnian ethnic cleansing is likely to be taught in the decades to come? Outside Ireland how much of the English culpability is looked at regarding the “Great” Potato Famine (Death Toll approximately 1 million +, or 20% of Ireland’s population)?  As John Mitchell wrote, “The Almighty sent the potato blight… but the English created the famine.” 
Obviously it would be true to say that the number of deaths in these events was not numerically as high as the Holocaust, however “Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.” – Jean-Paul Satre, and as a proportion of the population or when measured as an impact study on the demographics and subsequent effect on populations it could be argued that, at the very least for the communities concerned, these events were equally catastrophic and in all cases without question the international reaction to these events has been one of relative ambivalence.  It would be as dangerous precedent a if we merely based somethings newsworthiness or impact for history on the number of casualties alone as it would were we not to look at all such events in an effort to learn from them.  After all the Bosnian conflict and the Rwandan genocide would appear to suggest that far from learning the lessons of history so as not to repeat them humans have in fact learnt the lessons of history so as to hone and perfect the means of further atrocity.
Song Of The Day ~ Joe Jackson – It’s Different For Girls