The Jewish Holocaust Is Not Unique

“If the Holocaust is to have any meaning, we must transfer our anger to today’s brutalities.”

Drinking 2 shots of espresso and wanted to express some thoughts on the holocaust. It seems clear to me that the Jewish Holocaust is encircled in barbed wire and isolated from other atrocities in world history. I realized today that I know nothing about the Armenian Holocaust which began around 1915. But ask me, or any just about anyone else about the Jewish Holocaust and most become encyclopedic; recalling the names of camps and key military figures, maybe provide an estimate of deaths, etc. It’s as if there was only one holocaust in world history. Is the Jewish Holocaust unique?

The Jewish Holocaust has been set apart as a unique event in history like no other. Zionists have used the Holocaust, since the 1967 war, to justify Israeli expansion into Palestinian land and to build support for a beleaguered Israel. I recently read how the designers of the Holocaust Museum dropped the idea of mentioning the Armenian genocide as a result of pressure from the Israeli government. The well-known Elie Wiesel, chair of President Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust, refused to include a description of the killings of the millions of non-Jews saying that it would be “stealing the Holocaust from us.”

The Jewish Holocaust is not unique. Since the campaign of the Third Reich, 100,000 lost their lives (20% of the total population of Rwanda) in the Rwanda genocide, about 45 million under Mao Zedong, 7 million led by Stalin, and 1.7 million led by Pol Pot. Ask most (American) college graduates about Mao’s reign in China and you will get blank stares. The term “genocide” and “holocaust” is inextricably tied to Jewish History to the exclusion of millions of other victims.

To build a wall around the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust is to abandon the idea that humankind is all one, that we are all – of whatever color, nationality, religion – deserving of equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When Jews turn inward to concentrate on their own history and look away from the ordeal of others, they are, with terrible irony, doing exactly what the rest of the world did in allowing the genocide to happen.

Instead of setting a part the Jewish Holocaust, let us create a greater solidarity in remembering the numerous other massacres and victims. My goal is not to diminish the experience of the Jewish Holocaust, but to enlarge it. Maybe it’s time we expand our understanding of the words: genocide and holocaust.

Written @ Starbucks in Los Gatos CA on 1/13/15

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