The H word

The H word
: Jewsweek has a thoughtful essay by Bradford R. Pilcher on the politicization of the Holocaust. The peg is George Bush’s visit to Auschwitz and his reminder of the evil that had to be defeated there (seen as a statement of the moral imperitive to defeat Saddam and also seen as a slap at Germany and France).

But before you click on the “comment” link, Bush fans, know that the essay quickly goes on to point out how Bush’s opponents from the left have also politicized the Holocaust. As have the Palestinians. As have Israelis and American Jews. Everybody does it.

That leads to an ongoing discussion about Jewish identity and the Holocaust, about incorporating victimhood into the identity.

And then, the author asks whether Jews have a unique right to politicize the Holocaust. As only blacks are supposed to use the N word, should only Jews use the H word?

By this argument, because the Holocaust primarily victimized Jews, then Jews have the right to control how it is remembered and politicized….

This final argument for a Jewish right to politicize the Holocaust to the exclusion of everybody else brings the whole discussion back to its origins, that of defining the Holocaust in the first place. Was it a horrific event that occurred mainly, but not exclusively, to Jews? Was it so exceptional as to have no comparison, or was it merely a significant genocide amidst myriad other genocides of varying magnitudes? Do the Jews have the right to appropriate it, or is our understanding something for all of humanity to control?

All of these questions are rolled up into a single letter: H. By capitalizing the H in ‘Holocaust,’ the Jewish community has essentially answered the questions with a single stroke of the pen. A capitalized event, the Holocaust becomes unique and incomparable, and by linking it to the figure of six million, it becomes a primarily Jewish event.

It is essays such as this that make Jewsweek one of the best magazines on the Internet.