It's good to see you are up and running again and have all these new sites. At the same time I think your mission has largely been accomplished, and if revisionism is in a lull these days there's a good reason for it: the revisionists have won.
Before I get into that I have to respond to your McCabe correspondent with this 'peace and love' idea about how everyone in the world should get along.
Revisionism is about many things, which I will get to, but surely one of the main things on the agenda was to point out how the Holocaust (whatever it is or was) was used and manipulated to support the Jewish state of Israel as well as a tried and true formula to give mostly secular American Jews a bid as MOPE's (Most Oppressed People Ever), a very popular hobby among Americans, as you know.
The thing is, since Novick and Finkelstein wrote their books in 1999 and 2000, that's well known; Tony Judt – a Belgian Jew who's been in the New York academic establishment for decades – has even pointed that out in The Nation – of all places – a few weeks ago. So, congrats, the revisionists were right, but don't expect anyone will ever tell you so.
Another thing that revisionism has been "about" concerned the unfair castigating and singling out of Germans for criticism. That, too, is on the severe downside, thanks to the French, who as the "cheese eating surrender monkeys," have become the new black beasts of the reactionary conservative establishment.
A third element of revisionism of course had to do with death chambers, gas chambers, whatever. But that's largely also kaput. I read the various rags: when was the last time there was a big write up about the Holocaust, let alone a big book? None that I can recall after the ebbings of the Irving trial – and certainly Irving, although not a very good revisionist, deserves a lot of credit for using that trial as a platform for shoving under the noses of the believers the various absurdities that I am sure they all sincerely believed going in.
The brightest note, dismissed by all revisionists I have seen, is that German fellow, Fritjof Meyer, who lowered the Auschwitz numbers to a few hundred K and at the same time went to bat with a number of revisionist arguments while simultaneously dismissing revisionists. Why is he important? Two reasons. First, his articles show that the story is not written in stone, and serious historians on the other side are willing to at least try and change their minds.
More important, Meyer wrote this revisionist stuff in Germany and was never charged. I don't see how else to read this, but to say that the ice is breaking. Even so, these changes take time. And it will keep taking time, years and years. And that's why your work continues in importance, but, not quite as important as before, because you have already gained a lot of points.
What revisionism is still about is showing how politicians and their media types will still spin reality to get it to be what they want it to be, rather than what it is. That's certainly true. The WMD story is a classic case of this Tinkerbelle Effect, whereby wanting something to be real makes it real. The gas chambers are similar of course, but, who's to pay attention? Most college kids today know zero about the world wars or the Holocaust, except, yeah, the Nazis killed a lot of Jews, and in gas chambers, too. Then they yawn, and want to talk about Ashley Simpson's belly button…
That's part of the problem with reaching young people, particularly young Americans. They are no more interested in the truth about WMD than they are in the truth about the "steam chambers" at Treblinka. That may, or rather, will change, if and when the US ever reinstalls the draft. You'll want to keep your powder dry on that one. However, even then, if you want to teach them about how small political and media elites groupthink themselves into Never-Never Land, it will be a lot simpler to reach them on the level of the missing WMD's (and missing paper shredders used to kill people, and Uday's missing gas chamber, and the missing "rape rooms") than something like the gas chambers at Auschwitz which are fast fading into ancient history…
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, while your work is important, I hardly ever hear anything about the Holocaust, so, why should I be hearing about revisionism? Holocaust Denial didn't even make the top ten of the ADL's list of things American Jews have to be worried about.
Certainly some of that has to do with Israeli politics, which leads me back to Mr. McCabe's rose-colored view of reality. The reality is that Israel was supposed to be a secular state with a lot of Jews in it, being Jewish in a national sense the same way Danes are nationalists. And it was going to be the home of all Jews. Instead, Israel has evolved into a military dictatorship where its basic laws have been hijacked by religious extremists, and where they are slowly being outnumbered by non-Jews that they don't want in their country. At the same time, they don't want to give up any land either. The land is overcrowded and overused and it's the home of less than a third of world Jewry. The endgame for Israel is not going to be pretty, but it will end up bi-national, whether Sharon likes it or not. The Holocaust has zero relevance to these current problems.
And I have to say this issue of cutting off aid to Israel, and the Holocaust in relation to that, is a pipedream. The UN didn't ratify Israel into existence because of gas chambers. They ratified Israel into existence partly out of general sympathy for their treatment by the Nazis (with or without gas chambers, it was pretty bad), partly because they didn't want to support millions of Jewish refugees in their own countries, and partly because they thought they could get some political advantage out of it. And they did, just ask President Thomas Dewey…
As for aid to Israel, don't forget that Israel achieved its independence using weapons mostly from communist Czechoslovakia, and the jets it used in 1967 were from France. Recently, Israelis have cuddled up to Evangelical Christians, China, and Moslem Turkey in efforts to pursue its national interest. This isn't just about politics making strange bed fellows, it's about the fact that if we cut off aid to Israel, they'll just get their guns somewhere else.
It's true that loosening our ties with Israel might help us out in this "terror war" we got going on now. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that Israel is now a distinct liability to any one of its allies. At the same time, no one's going to bail on Israel over whether or not half a million people got gassed in some Polish basement. The reason Israel still gets aid from us, not that it makes any difference to how the Israelis act, remember, they'll just get the guns elsewhere, is that there's a lot of American Jews who want it to be so. As long as American politicians can gain political capital by defending Israel and doling out the pork (so to speak) they'll continue to do so. But that again, I think, is independent of the Holocaust.
The acid test is how often American Jewish groups, and Israeli politicians, use the Holocaust to justify whatever. They used to do it all the time. Now, hardly ever. And if the Holocaust is no longer an important tool, then revisionism is right away less important.
I don't mean these words as a put down. You have done important work and you are RIGHT, and it's important to keep a presence out there, on the web, in newsletters, so on. It's just that the world has moved on to a bigger stage now, and while it's important to keep the faith, we have to keep our eye on the ball.
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|Title:||Outlaw History #25, I Don't See How Else to Read This. The Ice Is Breaking.|
|First posted on CODOH:||July 7, 2012, 7 p.m.|