Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Canada / Jewish Holocaust / Holocaust Uniqueness

"More than three million Ukrainians were intentionally starved by Stalin between 1932 and 1933." (Agence France-Presse)
Rights Museum: Is It Proper That the Holocaust Gets Special Billing?
By Charles Lewis
The National Post, January 7, 2011
"The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is intended to promote the idea that there exists no greater crime than the abuse of individuals because of their creed, colour or religion. It is also meant to convey the noble notion that such affronts should create revulsion in everyone, not just the victims. But some say that noble intention could be tarnished by plans to give more attention and space to some victims over others -- opening an uncomfortable and highly emotional debate about the hierarchy of suffering, something that touches on grievances that have gone on for decades in Canada and elsewhere. The museum, set to open in Winnipeg in the spring of 2013, will give primacy to the murder of six million Jews during the Second World War, through a dedicated 'zone' to the Holocaust. All other 'mass atrocities' will be put together and housed in a separate zone and will include, among other events, the Rwandan massacres, the Cambodian Killing Fields, and the Holodomor -- the planned starvation and execution of at least 3.2 million Ukrainians in the early 1930s under Stalin. For Ukrainian Canadians especially, this decision is emblematic of a long history of vying for recognition of the terror their people suffered at the hands of one of history’s most murderous tyrants. Any competition for attention could regrettably start to look like the 'genocide Olympics,' said Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada. 'Intentionally or not, it leaves the impression that the horrors that befell some of communities are somehow more worthy of memory. That kind of partiality is unacceptable in a taxpayer-funded national museum.'
This is not the first time such controversies have erupted about the recognition of suffering. For example, two years ago, a group lobbying for a memorial in Ottawa to the victims of communism -- 100 million in the 20th century in the former Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and elsewhere, according to some counts -- encountered resistance from a parliamentary committee over labelling all communists as mass killers. In the end, a compromise was reached in which the term 'totalitarian communism' was settled upon, and the memorial is approved for construction. Angela Cassie, the director of communications for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, said the Holocaust is given particular prominence because it acts as a template to understand the broader idea of genocide wherever it occurs, a kind of window into how genocides begin in the first place. ... Arthur Schafer, the director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, said the decision to give the Holocaust a particular place of recognition in the museum should not be viewed as 'diminishing the suffering of others,' because the Holocaust is unique. No matter the venue or context, he said, the Holocaust always has to be given primacy of commemoration because of the ideology that was behind the murder of the Jews. 'The very rationale for killing Jews was part of the official ideology of Nazism while forced starvation of Ukrainians was not the official ideology of communism. What makes it unique was that it was the end result of planned dehumanizing of people. It was an ideology that said Jews were sub-human, they were toxic and the world needed to be freed of them.' British journalist Peter Hitchens, author of The Rage Against God, which argued that the Soviet Union became one of the most 'disgusting societies' ever to have existed, is well aware of the crimes of the former communist state. He has also wondered why there are no major museums dedicated to the crimes of communism. Despite this, he said, there is still no crime equivalent to the Holocaust, and any attempt 'to pretend that other events -- however horrifying -- are equivalent [is] dishonest and detracts from that uniqueness a uniqueness which provides an unanswerable case for the existence of the Jewish state.' [...]"
[n.b. The final quote is vital: rejecting a claim of Holocaust uniqueness "detracts ... a uniqueness which provides an unanswerable case for the existence of the Jewish state." That's why fortifying Holocaust uniqueness is so central to its exponents: in order to fortify Israeli power. Those who are unconcerned to fortify Israeli power (indeed, who would like to see it undermined) may feel free to reject claims of Holocaust uniqueness, as I do. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]

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