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"Israel equals colonialism - this is pure hate propaganda"

Things got tough for months.

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"Israel equals colonialism - this is pure hate propaganda"

Things got tough for months. Practically all relevant West German and some international newspapers were there when in 1986/87 the question arose in feature pages and on opinion pages as to whether the Holocaust, the “racial murder” of millions of European Jews, was “singular” – or at least comparable to others Crimes against humanity such as the Bolshevik "class murder". It was also discussed at universities, adult education centers, even in advanced history courses at some high schools.

Susan Neiman, philosophy researcher and director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, and Michael Wildt, professor of contemporary history at the Humboldt University in Berlin, have now published the anthology "Historiker streiten" (Propyläen Verlag Berlin. 368 p., 26 euros ). There is a "new argument about the roots of the Holocaust" and violence in the 20th century. The urgent problem of the present is: "What can a culture of remembrance look like that also includes the long-suppressed German colonial crimes?"

Michael Wolffsohn is a contemporary historian and has taught at the Bundeswehr University in Munich for more than 30 years. Many of his books deal with dealing with the Holocaust and the naturally difficult relationship between Israel and Germany. “Another Jewish World History” was published in 2022.

WORLD: Did you hear a lot about the supposedly new historians' dispute before the book by Susan Neiman and Michael Wildt was published?

Wolffsohn: Enough and too much. But here the argument is about daily politics, not about history. Topic one of the political dispute is anti-Israeli propaganda. It is intended to justify the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign against Israel. Pseudo-scientific and mostly by amateur, non- and wannabe-historians. Their effect is more anti-Semitism. Theme two: the dignity of black people. This is highly necessary and honorable, but misused for topic one.

WORLD: In 1986/87, shortly after the speech by the then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker, who called May 8, 1945 a "Day of Liberation", numerous contemporary witnesses of the Nazi regime were still alive, both perpetrators and survivors or the persecuted and before all a lot of viewers. It's different 35 years later. Perhaps this is the reason for the insignificance of this debate beyond a few mostly left-wing academic milieus?

Wolffsohn: I disagree. For the authors of this book, the justified radical criticism of the now petrified German politics of remembrance is only a pretext, yes, a masquerade. This criticism draws a line to Nazism, the Wehrmacht, the Holocaust and the German occupation of Europe, and justifiably condemns them. But then compared with Israel's occupation policy and sometimes equated. The leap follows: Israel equals colonialism. These are alternative facts à la Trump.

WORLD: Susan Neiman writes in her essay: "Black Americans must still live in a country where concentration camps serve as wedding scenes." Do you know what she means?

Wolffsohn: Ms. Neiman lived in the USA for decades and was more likely to be in cloud cuckoo land there. Here she drops the mask: the word "concentration camp" immediately makes the connection to Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and Jews as victims. The US and Israel are close allies. Therefore, she suggests with the so-called post-colonialists, the supposedly colonial and Nazi Israel along with the US would be like the Nazis. This is pure hate propaganda. It disguises itself as science.

WORLD: The writer Eva Menasse writes about the "alleged Documenta scandal" and means the numerous anti-Semitic "works of art" that were shown at the tax-financed show of contemporary art in Kassel. She also writes in the book, which was published at the end of September 2022: "There was no tangible evidence of this serious allegation." Is it bad luck that the author was unable to update her text before it went to press? After all, nobody in their right mind today doubts the fundamentally anti-Semitic character of Documenta 15.

Wolffsohn: Even worse. One anti-Semitic discovery followed another at the Documenta. Eva Menasse refers solely to a single, gigantic work of art, as is known from the Nazis' "Stürmer". She writes that they are “small anti-Semitic caricatures on a large Indonesian fabric picture.” Eva Menasse from Vienna lives in Berlin. You probably know the saying that old Berliners say to a kind of blindness: "It has tomatoes on the ojen."

WORLD: The co-author Sami Khatib writes that a “legally graded apartheid system” has been set up in Israel. That surprised me with a book that was published by a publishing house from the Ullstein family, who came from German-Jewish roots...

Wolffsohn: ...Khatib is an art historian and media philosopher. Anyone who claims something historically and politically counterfactual like this understands nothing about Israel and Judaism, nor about South Africa's former apartheid regime. Donald Trump finds worthy copyists of his alternative facts in this book – under completely different circumstances. Counterfactual is not a right-wing privilege. It remains counterfactual even when it appears between two covers of a once-Jewish and highly respected publishing house.

WORLD: In your opinion, is there anything worth reading about the book by Neiman and Wildt?

Wolffsohn: Yes, the essay by Yehuda Bauer. It offers fact, most other fiction and hate. Academically ennobled, this hatred legitimizes the "Dumb Dude"'s verbal and physical violence against Jews and Israel. The dike breaks. The book is false labeling. Only six of the 16 authors are historians. Almost everyone agrees. So neither historian nor dispute. If, as here, Jews also participate in hatred of Jews and Israel, this does not make it kosher.

WORLD: Detached from this somewhat strange book - how do you see the relationship between colonial violence and the Holocaust? Did the preliminary stage for the murder of millions of European Jews from 1939 to 1945 take place in the European, i.e. also the German, colonies, especially in Africa before the First World War?

Wolffsohn: Anyone who claims that has no sense of proportion and belittles the murder of six million Jews - regardless of whether you describe the Holocaust as singular or not. Anyone who claims this knows little about the Holocaust and colonialism. Anyone who talks about colonialism and doesn't mention the previous, millennia-old inner-African exploitation and oppression with the help of the Arab-Islamic slave system should keep quiet altogether. This also applies to intra-African oppression since the end of colonialism. This is the true post-colonialism, subsidized by western billions and masquerading as value in the struggle for human dignity.

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