Holocaust denial is so commonplace, that we don’t contemplate its uniqueness. There is no other broad-based denial of a particular event in history other than the genocide of European Jewry, even while Survivors are still alive.
Why is that?
Certainly there is bigotry and racism. But many people harbor biases against a group and still do not deny their history.
A person may dislike Black people but won’t deny that there was Black slavery. A person might be a misogynist, but will readily admit that women once did not have the right to vote.
Yet the deliberate effort to deny Jewish history happens so frequently, that even the United Nations General Assembly – no friend to the Jewish people – passed a resolution to combat this evil.
Why do people deny and falsify Jewish history?
A Religious Perspective:
Change in Gospel and Fake History
Christianity views itself as an extension of Judaism. The Christian Messiah was a himself a Jew in Jerusalem, who took the religion in a new direction. The Christian bible is called the ‘New Testament,’ built upon the ‘Old Testament’ of the Jews.
For centuries, Christianity viewed Jews as those who rejected their Messiah. Until the Second Vatican Council in 1965, Catholic doctrine felt that Jews should be punished for killing Jesus and continuing to reject him.
Muslims’ approach to Judaism is quite different. Islamic tradition views the Hebrew Bible as a complete fabrication. They believe that Abraham’s covenant ran through his son Ishmael, the patriarch of the Arabs, not Isaac.
It is therefore not surprising that Muslims are twice as likely to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes as Christians according to an ADL poll. That the Islamic Republic of Iran mocks the Holocaust as a fabrication can perhaps be seen through the lens that it views itself as the vanguard of Islam, which rejects the entire story of the Jewish people from its foundation.
Christians falls into two camps: those who accept the Second Vatican Council and are not likely to deny the Holocaust, and the “ultra-traditionalists” – like some of the people from the Society of St. Pius X – who actively deny the Holocaust. This second group are angered that the Church altered its own foundational texts and the history of Jews and Jesus, so they actively deny the genocide of the Jews.
For Muslims and ultra-traditionalist Christians, Jewish history is either built on a fiction, or has become fictionalized, so think nothing of denying Jews of their history.
A Secular Perspective:
Schemers and Scapegoats
The falsification of Jewish history occurs outside of religious denominations as well.
“The Protocols of The Elders of Zion,” was a notorious anti-Semitic forgery written in the Russian Empire in 1903. It attempted to portray Jews as schemers who were plotting to create havoc to control the world through the banks, media and provoking wars. It spread throughout the world by radical anti-Semites including Henry Ford and the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas.
While some people might hate Hindus, no one took time to create a false document about Hindu community leaders to make them look evil.
So why the Jews?
Jews were often viewed with suspicion because of their position.
The Jewish diaspora spread a small people to the corners of the earth. While some assimilated and converted (forcibly and otherwise), many held on to their traditions. They did so in clustered communities – both voluntary and forced – to facilitate the production of kosher foods and participate in communal prayer.
That insularity bred suspicion. A small group that insisted on holding onto an unpopular belief system either lived on one extreme of abject poverty or became leaders in various professional fields. They were resented for both because they were considered as foreigners.
Anti-Semites were ready to embrace the Protocols forgery. They jumped at the opportunity to believe blood libels that Jews stole babies for baking matzah or were behind the Black Death. Jews were considered aliens in their midst, and easy scapegoats for the root of problems. Falsifying history helped foster that foreigner narrative, and an evil one at that.
The foreigner label attached to Jews everywhere, including in Ethiopia where Black Jews were called “falashas,” which means “foreigners” in Amharic.
In small, cloistered communities stretched around the world, Jews were vulnerable. Their non-Jewish neighbors were able to cast their opinions onto this minority, and craft stories to enlist others to embrace their hatred. Jews were left protesting the absurd charges to an audience that was both instigator, prosecutor and judge at once.
The secular falsification of Jewish history is anchored in xenophobia, and a desire to expel the foreign bodies, whether they be the “unclean,” poor Jew, or the “powerful,” puppet-masters “behind the curtain,” exploiting the noble masses for profit.
The unique nature of denying and falsifying Jewish history is embedded in Muslim and ultra-traditionalist Christian religious bias as well as anti-Semitic xenophobia. Holocaust education will not cure those ills.