Q: Daddy, how do you spell "Zionist"?A: I don't know, but before the war you spelled it with a "J"!
|When asked to agree or disagree with the statement,|
"Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians",
63% of Polish participants agreed.
There are so many things wrong and repulsive about Europeans believing that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians and each of the nationalities participating in a survey by the German-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation has its own set of historical legacies that may inform such a view. But for Yom HaShoah, I want to focus on Poland where half the Jews of Europe were exterminated by the Nazi killing machine that depended on the collaboration/ obliviousness/ hatred/ indifference of the Polish people. The largest Jewish population anywhere in the world lived in Poland and 85% of them were killed during WWII. From approximately three million, the number of Jews in Poland nowadays is somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000.
So...let's ask how it could be that 63%, or two-thirds, of Polish respondents felt comfortable enough -- not ashamed, not secretive -- to agree to the term 'War of Extermination' in relation to Israel and the Palestinians. It's as if there is cloud of confusion related to numbers that seems to hover above Polish minds and it is reminiscent of a similar confusion that wildly overestimates the numbers of Palestinian deaths, say, since 1948.
According to the Polynational War Memorial and other unbiased agencies, between 1948 and 2009 there have been approximately 15,000 combined Palestinian and Israeli casualties as a result of the conflict. Let's say that more than half of those were Palestinians. The Nazi's ate numbers like that for breakfast and outside Auschwitz and Birkenau and Treblinka, Polish townfolk and peasants witnessed numbers like that coming in on trains and going out through smokestacks on a weekly basis.
The syndrome of forgetting numbers is well illustrated in one of my 'favorite' scenes in Claude Lanzmann's Shoah "...when the wife of the Nazi schoolteacher in Chelmno, who witnessed the gas vans coming and going each day, could no longer remember how many Jews had been gassed, whether it was 4,000, 40,000 or 400,000. When Lanzmann tells her 400,000, what is her response? ' knew it had a four in it.'"
I realize I'm being impressionistic, but how can one account for the conflation of the actual war of extermination of that eternal object of projection -- the Jew on whom we blame our sins and the Israel-Palestinian conflict of which there are two sides? When there is no sense of scale differentiating the lose of almost an entire people, the Jews, from the death of a regrettable number of Palestinians? And that loss of precision situated in a country whose Jewish population went from three million to, relatively speaking, almost nothing?
Perhaps a few examples of 20th Century historical memory can account somewhat for the projection of Polish guilt upon the Jews. One such was the 1941 Jebwabne Pogrom in which approximately 1,000 Jews were massacred by their Polish neighbors. In 2001, when the book Neighbors by Jan Gross was published, there was a fierce debate in Poland with many blaming either the Nazis for instigating the pogrom or the Jews themselves for collaborating with the Soviets and bringing the horrendous massacre upon themselves. That was during the war. The Kielce Pogrom in 1946 came after the war when some Jews returned from concentration camps and tried to reclaim their property and resettle in the town. For over 60 years the Poles were unable to come to terms with their guilt for inflicting such horrors with their very own bare hands.
|The government orchestrated Anti-Zionist demonstrations in 1968.|
In an interview about the Left's Anti-Zionism, the Chicago University Marxist historian Moishe Postone provides a very credible description of the movement from Anti-Semitism to Anti-Zionism and the particular projection of genocidal aims onto the Jews after the establishment of
"...the violence historically perpetrated by Europeans on Jews is erased; at the same time the horrors of European colonialism now become attributed to the Jews. In this case, the abstract universalism expressed by many anti-Zionists today becomes an ideology of legitimation that helps constitute a form of amnesia regarding the long history of European actions, policies and ideologies toward the Jews, while essentially continuing that history. The Jews have once again become the singular object of European indignation."
You can read the entire Friedrich Ebert Foundation survey here and the summary here.