In 2021 Gina Peddy, head of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, told teachers they must teach “opposing” perspectives on the Holocaust if they have students read books on the subject.
Ms. Peddy, perhaps a bigot or just plain ignorant (the two have a lot in common), had little to say when a teacher asked, “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” There is no answer. There are not two sides to the story. There are neither pro nor con, neither heads nor tails. There is enough creditable documentation to suggest that Holocaust denial belongs on the same pages where moon-walk skeptics rant and in the annals of the Flat Earth Society.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II, foresaw the possibility of Holocaust denial. He took actions to ensure that the horrifying truth of the Holocaust would be documented and taught to future generations.
“The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering,” Eisenhower said. “I made the visit [to Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda.”
Much of the Holocaust story has fallen on deaf ears, ears found in multiple places—places that are frequently where education is supposed to be happening, where learning our history makes us squirm and wince in disgust.
One could argue that such a Holocaust statement might be expected from ultra-red Texas, the last state to host slavery. But this past week offered proof that on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the Ivy League some sort of clarification is needed to determine what constitutes racism. The presidents of Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania suggested that “context” is needed to determine if a calling for genocide against Jews could be counted as harassment. (Late yesterday, UPenn president Elizabeth Magill, and the chairman of the board of trustees, Scott L. Bok, resigned.)
In other words, being antisemitic can be allowed if supported by plausible excuse or reason. It’s almost akin to saying that bigotry against Blacks is allowed on Tuesdays and as dangerously ludicrous to say that Trump will be a dictator only on day one.
I don’t buy it and I don’t believe there are any excuses or reasons. There is simply no context in which racism can be given berth. Antisemitism and each of its semantic cousins is inexcusable, a word which has no other meaning. The deadly violence visited upon Jews, as well as homosexuals, Sinti, Roma, mentally ill people, and others murdered by the Nazis in pre-war Europe was so horrific in nature that the word genocide was coined in 1944 to offer a single description.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (I.H.R.A.), an intergovernmental organization, adopted the following definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Citing three pages of incidents characterized by antisemitism, the House of Representatives passed a resolution (HB 894) saying, “since the massacre of innocent Israelis by Hamas, an Iran-backed terrorist organization, on October 7,2023, antisemitic incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault in the United States have spiked 388 percent over the same period last year, according to reports from the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism.”
The resolution provides that it was doing, according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, “what most cultures cannot: looking at its own crimes, its own worst self.”
While that is all well and good, there is no shortage of problems in the Middle East, where Palestinians seek real estate and independence. “From the River to the Sea, We Demand Equality” read the placards at demonstrations around the world.
Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has called the Hamas murders on October 7, the “Holocaust by bullets.” This comparison, picked up and recirculated by world leaders, including President Biden, serves to bolster Israel’s case for inflicting collective punishment on the residents of Gaza.
At the same time, Netanyahu has curried favor with fellow autocrats: Hungary’s hard-right leader Viktor Orba, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, N. Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and China’s Xi Jinping. Oh, did I forget Russia’s Vladimir Putim?
Netanyahu is a racist thug who cares only that the Palestinians be eradicated. I know, I know: he says HAMAS needs to be destroyed, which it does, but would he stop there? Of course not. Nor is his position of revenging the deaths of 1,400 Israelis very believable. Without regard to international law, Bibi has more than exacted his state’s revenge. His onslaught of Gaza is deplorable.
For the last seventeen years under Bibi’s rule, Gaza has been a densely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound—a ghetto. A ghetto wherein tens of thousands have died from bullets and bombs aimed at housing, hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances carrying the wounded toward uncertainty. Eight out of ten Gazans are now homeless, moving from one place to another in search of a safety that doesn’t exist.
A two-state solution, orchestrated by sound minds devoted to peace, is what is needed. As of late, we only have shoah—a catastrophe in Hebrew.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Latkes (potato pancakes)
A recipe repeat that is a staple in most eastern European countries, latkes. They are particularly popular during the Jewish holidays. Cheap and easy-to-make, we like to eat them with apple sauce and chicken soup.
2 cups grated russet potatoes, squeezed dry
2 eggs, well beaten
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ small onion, grated
Mix all ingredients well and form into 3” to 4” pancakes. Fry in vegetable shortening until brown and crisp. Drain on a rack and serve warm. Traditionally, they are served with sour cream and a garnish of chopped green onions.