The international council of the Auschwitz museum earlier this month issued a statement supporting Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip under the banner of “self-defense.”
This grotesque move by an institution whose alleged mission is “to warn against indifference” to the kinds of atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, came on 18 November.
This was after weeks of merciless Israeli bombing which had by that time killed more than 13,000 Palestinians, including 5,500 children.
According to The New York Times – no friend of the Palestinian people – the pace of Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza “has few precedents in this century.”
To find a historical comparison for so many large bombs in such a small area, we may “have to go back to Vietnam or the Second World War,” Marc Garlasco, a military adviser for the Dutch organization PAX and a former senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon, told the Times.
And yet the official guardians of the memory of the estimated 1.1 million people murdered at Auschwitz are not flinching.
“Threatened in its existence, the State of Israel has the right to self-defense in accordance with international law and the principles of humanitarianism,” the Auschwitz council said.
“The existence of a free, sovereign and democratic Jewish state is one of the pillars of world peace,” it asserted, dropping any pretense of political neutrality.
Spreading atrocity propaganda
Despite the lip service to international law, the Auschwitz council gave its full-throated endorsement to Israel’s barbaric assault on Gaza.
“The unimaginable hatred and violence perpetrated by terrorists only results in extensive and more widespread suffering – affecting also the civilian population of Gaza, whom Hamas exploits as human shields,” the Auschwitz council said, repeating a lie whose intention is to blame Palestinians for their own deaths and absolve Israel of their systematic murder.
As justification for Israel’s supposed self-defense against a refugee population it has displaced, occupied, besieged, murdered and terrorized for decades, the statement repeats unverified and debunked Israeli claims that on 7 October, “innocent victims” were “tortured, raped, taken hostage and murdered by Hamas terrorists.”Israel has been unable to substantiate its inflammatory accusations that have fueled the genocide – even in its screenings of supposedly damning evidence of such atrocities to handpicked friendly journalists such as The Guardian’s Owen Jones.
“If living people were beheaded … we’re not shown that in any of the video footage. If there was torture too, there’s no evidence given for it on camera. Now if there was rape and sexual violence committed, we don’t see this on the footage either,” Jones said after attending a screening of a documentary on “Hamas atrocities” organized by the Israeli military.
“We don’t see children being killed,” Jones added, after viewing what is presumably the most powerful evidence Israel has been able to muster.
There is meanwhile a growing body of testimony and evidence that a significant – though as yet undetermined – number of the Israelis who died on or after 7 October were actually killed by their own military or police forces who reacted with massive and panicked indiscriminate fire.
This evidence has been ignored by world leaders and international officials, including UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who continue to parrot the Israeli version of events without calling for any sort of independent inquiry.
We learn from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that atrocity propaganda of the kind Israel has been spewing since 7 October – for example the debunked tale of dozens of beheaded Jewish babies – played a key role in facilitating the German-led European holocaust of European Jews.
“Propaganda campaigns created an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews,” the US Holocaust museum states. “Propaganda also encouraged passivity and acceptance of the impending measures against Jews, as these appeared to depict the Nazi government as stepping in and ‘restoring order.’”
That is precisely what Israel’s atrocity tales are designed to do; and it has worked effectively by lining up western media and governments in support of its genocidal war.
“Textbook case of genocide”
The Auschwitz council statement came just two days after three dozen independent UN experts admonished world governments for the “failure of the international system to mobilize to prevent genocide” by Israel in Gaza.
The UN experts expressed alarm over “discernibly genocidal and dehumanizing rhetoric coming from senior Israeli government officials, as well as some professional groups and public figures, calling for the ‘total destruction,’ and ‘erasure’ of Gaza, the need to ‘finish them all’ and force Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem into Jordan.”
Israel, the UN experts said, “has demonstrated it has the military capacity to implement such criminal intentions.”
Two weeks earlier, a group of independent UN experts had also warned that “the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide” and that “time is running out to prevent genocide and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”
On 13 October, just days after the events Israel has used to justify its extermination campaign in Gaza, Raz Segal, an Israeli professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, called Israel’s assault “a textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.”The same day, Palestinian human rights groups called on world governments “to urgently intervene to protect the Palestinian people against genocide.”
They too cited the genocidal statements of Israeli leaders, including defense minister Yoav Gallant who said on 9 October: “We are imposing a complete siege on [Gaza]. No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel – everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.”
And that is exactly what Israel did with the predictable and clearly intended genocidal results.
“Millions of civilians are being collectively punished in full view of the world, there can be no justification for using starvation as a weapon of war,” UK-based charity Oxfam said in late October – a grave war crime.During the temporary truce of recent days, a UN official described seeing emaciated adults and children, desperate for food and water.
“You can see the children are getting thinner and they haven’t eaten for a while,” UNICEF’s James Elder told Aljazeera.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization warned that more people would soon start dying in Gaza from disease than from bombardment.
The European Union, which funds the Auschwitz museum and memorial, asserts that the purpose of Holocaust education is to promote respect for tolerance, democracy and human rights.
Holocaust education “can point to the responsibility of those who closed their eyes to discrimination against minorities and those who turned their heads when atrocities were perpetrated,” according to one European Parliament document.
But if anything, Holocaust education seems to be having the opposite effect: providing justification for new atrocities against new victims.
For years, Israel has been sending teenagers on junkets to Auschwitz often just before they join the army.
But these death-camp visits “were creating a generation of xenophobes obsessed with the notion of Jewish might, but largely blind to the Holocaust’s universal lessons,” according to an assessment in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz in 2016.
“The main message I got from the trip was that it’s important to serve in the army and defend the country, and I just didn’t connect to that. I thought it was propaganda,” one Israeli officer told the newspaper.Undoubtedly, many of the Israeli personnel dropping bombs on hospitals and apartment buildings in Gaza in recent weeks, visited Auschwitz where they heard the message “Never Again,” and then went home more ready than ever to do it again – this time to Palestinians.
Captured by Israel
That the Auschwitz council is willing to lend its presumed moral authority to a new genocide, is ironic beyond words and simply repugnant. But it is not surprising.
One of its members is Dani Dayan, the former Israeli consul-general in New York and former leader of the council representing Israel’s illegal Jewish settler-colonies in the occupied West Bank.
Dayan has stated openly that the true meaning of “Never Again” is that world leaders should provide unconditional support to Israel as it slaughters Palestinians.Another council member is Ronald Lauder, also a backer of the genocide in Gaza, and a pro-Israel billionaire who uses his wealth to blackmail institutions that refuse to muzzle Palestinians and their supporters.
For decades, Israel and its lobby have weaponized the memories of the Jews murdered by the German government and its European partners during World War II to justify their crimes against the Palestinian people.
Having captured Auschwitz symbolically if not militarily, Israel is now using it – just as it is using the schools and hospitals its army devastated and captured in Gaza – as a base for its ongoing extermination of the Palestinian people.