“Universalized” Holocaust Education is a Disguise For Continued Holocaust Supremacy. Peto
The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education, by Jennifer Peto. 2010. MA Thesis, University of Toronto
A Critique of Holocaust Education: Broad-Based Implications
The author is a left-wing, activist Jew. She is anti-Zionist and often anti-Israeli. Her thesis is laced with all the leftspeak about such things as “white privilege”, and with reference to familiar “victim groups” such as women and gays. She almost never even mentions the Slavic victims of the Nazi Germans, but her findings are applicable to these peoples. That is the focus of my review.
THE POLITICAL ASPECTS OF HOLOCAUST SUPREMACY
Let us first define our terms. What I call Holocaust supremacism, Peto calls hegemonic Holocaust education. She writes, “Within the literature that is critical of hegemonic Holocaust education, many scholars have focused their critique on the tendency of these educational projects to present the Holocaust as the worst atrocity in human history. They argue that when the Holocaust is regarded as uniquely evil, there is an implicit assumption that it cannot be explained, represented or compared to any other instances of violence and persecution.” (p. 48).
In addition, she comments, “Here I am defining hegemonic Holocaust education as projects that are sponsored by the Israeli government and/or mainstream Jewish organizations. These projects also tend to have the support of Western governments and institutions.” (p. 44).
Peto points out that, “Unfortunately, hegemonic Holocaust education is currently guided by Zionist ideology…” (p. 76).
She adds that, “The success of the Holocaust industry has ensured that the ‘Jew as victim’ can be readily mobilized to portray Israel, the Jewish nation, as forever weak, defenseless and vulnerable.” (p. 92).
“UNIVERSALIZED” HOLOCAUST EDUCATION, AT VERY LEAST, REMAINS JEWISH ELITIST
Peto comments, “My main argument is that one of the effects of hegemonic Holocaust education that universalizes the Holocaust is the production of white Jewish subjects that see themselves as moral actors whose intimate relationship with oppression and genocide gives them a moral obligation to teach others about the dangers of intolerance, and also makes them into the ultimate authority on these issues.” (p. 46). So, even under “universalism”, the Jews’ Holocaust is a self-appointed “gateway” genocide through which all other genocides must pass in order to be properly understood.
“UNIVERSALIZED” HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: A JEWISH-SERVING MERITOCRACY OF SUFFERING STILL REMAINS
Peto notes that Holocaust elitism, though muted, is still there, “When hegemonic Holocaust education is universalizing the lessons of the Holocaust, claims about the unique magnitude of the Holocaust are still often present, even if statements to that effect are not central within the project.” (p. 62).
At other times, the marginalization of non-Jewish genocides is more overt. The author quotes Wendy Brown on MOT (Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance): “Brown argues that the MOT emphasizes that the Holocaust is the worst atrocity in human history, while characterizing other violence as merely prejudice and intolerance.” (p. 61). So the Jews’ Holocaust still reigns supreme.
HOLOCAUST PREEMINENCE AND RACISM EVEN WITH “UNIVERSALISM”
Peto makes these sage comments, “While this is still controversial, universalizing the Holocaust has become a key feature of hegemonic Holocaust education, especially when these projects are not directed at Jewish people. I have argued here that this move is not an outright rejection of the idea of Holocaust uniqueness, nor is it simply a progressive shift towards using the Holocaust for anti-racist education and organizing. Instead, I have demonstrated the ways in which this type of Holocaust education works to produce Jewish moral actors who come to know themselves as innocent victims of racism who cannot see their own racism or their complicity in maintaining systemic oppression.” (p. 76).
So Peto once again realizes that “universalizing” the Holocaust does not eliminate Holocaust dominance: It only disguises it. However, Peto does not go far enough. Confined as she is to left-wing ideology, she does not grasp the fact that the Jewish presentation of themselves, as victims of Polish antisemitism, enables them to avoid their own long-term and ongoing racism directed against Poles and Poland.
However, Peto says, “I remember being confused by the racism I saw in my family and community – I could not comprehend why the victims of anti-Semitism could not see that their own racist beliefs and actions were just as wrong as those of anti-Semites.” (p. 2).
WE ARE STILL FAR FROM GENOCIDE RECOGNITION EQUALITY
The author hardly ever deviates her focus from left-wing-esteemed groups, with the following exception. Peto cites Michael Lerner, “He concludes by urging Jews and other minorities, including Irish, Italians and Poles to remember their histories of oppression in order to come together in a true multiculturalism that does not privilege one group over another.” (p. 42).
The author also needs to broaden the following statement to include Poles and other Slavs, “Jewish anti-racist activists should be demanding that funding for Holocaust education be reallocated toward memorializing other histories that have and continue to be suppressed.” (p. 77).
HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY HYPOCRISY ON COMMUNAL PROPERTY
The endless property-restitution claims against Poland center on the “unjust enrichment” of Poles acquiring the heirless and communal properties of Jews that had been murdered by faceless Nazis. However, Israeli Jews have no problem with their own “unjust enrichment” at the expense of other peoples.
With reference to the Mamilla Muslim Cemetery, Peto writes, “At the time of writing, the Israeli Supreme Court has granted the Simon Wiesenthal Centre permission to build a new Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem on top of an ancient Muslim cemetery. This only further demonstrates both the Zionism and racism of this project.” (p. 62). [Some have argued that the Muslim cemetery had earlier been abandoned. However, note that the same considerations, about cemeteries being abandoned, can be applied to onetime Jewish cemeteries in Poland.]
July 9, 2020.
Published with the author’s permission.
Source: Jews & Poles DATEBASE.
The title image source: musicalhegemny.com / selected by wg.pco