Last week, Howard Zinn, the great Jewish teacher and activist, died leaving behind a profound legacy of a life long commitment to justice and human dignity for all people. He was truly a Jewish hero who embodied Jewish values in his life and work. His life will always enrich and inspire the lives of the living.
Last week Israeli politicians, Netanyahu, Peres and others, were in European capitals exploiting International Holocaust Day to garner support for Israeli government policy. The TV news here in Israel focussed at length on the public speeches and commemorations. Commentators on radio and TV talked at length about the uniqueness of the tragedy of the Holocaust, not once relating it to the suffering of any other people, but only to the threat from Iran, Goldstone, and implicitly, from the Palestinians and Arabs.
I find the way Israeli political leaders use the Holocaust to garner support for their policies really disturbing. It seems to me that by appropriating it to justifly Israeli political policies, they belittle the enormous tragedy of the Holocaust. They, and many American Jewish leadersת always emphasize the uniqueness of the event, thus disconnecting the enormous suffering of our people from the suffering of many peoples in history and the suffering of many people in our world today.
This view is the antithesis of the traditional Jewish view of suffering. The Torah makes it very clear that our experience as slaves in Egypt must open our hearts to all who are enslaved.
As a tribute to Zinn, my friend, Mark Braverman, posted the text of the speech that Zinn gave in 1999 about the meaning of the Holocaust. I was thinking about the staged public relations events in Europe when I read the piece. I was so moved as it powerfully articulates a completely different approach to the meaning of the Holocaust. I am copying it here and urge you to read it to the end. It is long but so important. I have taken the liberty of bolding some of the text.
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