For some people, universal principles can always be safely applied, without reference to the historical passage of time, to sort out an ethical, acceptable position because... well, because they're universal. Thus -- universally -- it has been, and remains to date, unacceptable to approve or comply with the destruction of entire peoples. Keeping this in mind, and reviewing what is historically specific (and what is historically generic) about the European Judeocide, a number of questions arise.
Curiously, the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections last week coincided with commemoration of the first International Holocaust (= European Judeocide) Memorial Day. Some believe this moment particularly propitious to strike out, in Tony Blair fashion, onto some "third way," neither "Holocaust" exploiting nor "Holocaust" denying. Does it assist the cause of Humanity today, however, to equate exploiters and deniers of the Judeocide? Or, does it undermine that section of our collective Humanity which remains burdened with having to resist another genocidal attempt on its Right to Be?
Truly permanently-intended, genocidal forms of the destruction of peoples are one of the innovations of 20th century warfare. Their emergence was facilitated by various technological innovations that intensified the destructiveness of existing military formations. The decisive factor was the relaxation during the First World War of the bar that was maintained, for more than two centuries, by national armed forces against the routine tactical targeting of unarmed civilian populations.
The Armenian genocide unleashed by the Ottomans in WWI marked the first major break with this prohibition. The industrialization of that approach by the Nazis and their Judeocide (cum Slav-o-cide cum Romani-cide cum "general subhumanity"-cide) was the second great step. This was followed very closely during the same period of the Second World War by the tactics of massive and deliberate aerial bombardment of enemies' cities, like Dresden. This development culminated in the most Americanized and most efficient end-point: the use of a single absurdly destructive atomic weapon delivered by air over a civilian population. After being fed a steady diet of extreme racist denigration of the Japanese people as "an evil race" and the "Yellow Peril," but showing widespread signs of war-weariness following the defeat of the Nazis in May 1945, the American public was told how many troops' lives would be saved by this new weapon. The other side of the war weariness was the fact that the U.S. public supported putting an end to fascists' aggression but not using such intervention as a pretext for the U.S. to become a new imperial overlord. The U.S. government consciously left the people in the dark about the fact that the U.S. and Britain had agreed not to tell their Soviet wartime ally about this weapon. According to the research of Prof D.F. Fleming, author of the authoritative two-volume work, Origins of the Cold War (1960), there were plans to use the Allied occupation of defeated Germany, coupled with a successful test-use of the A-bomb, as the basis for proceeding with an invasion of the Soviet Union.
In this evolution, many became focused on the "killing power" of the weaponry and lost sight of the genocidal thinking that inspired such a line of development in the first place. The two things became separated. In many post-WWII scenarios of imperialist colonizers' violence unleashed against subjugated peoples, the exploitation of this disjunction continued, under the disguise of "anti-communism". Putting an end to The Other justified deployment of any means, including deliberate targeting of civilians as part and parcel of military operations. It was easy enough for some colonizer or empire to con local elites, and other gangsters sucking the lifeblood of their peoples, into complying with such schemes. Getting entire peoples to go along with their own destruction, however, has proven to be another matter altogether. In the early 1950s, the U.S., in the name of "rolling back Red China,” targeted the social norms, structures and way of life of the people of the entire Korean peninsula, who enjoyed a continuity predating the North American settler-states by several millennia; but this was defeated. In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. unfolded the same modus operandi against the Vietnamese, Cambodia and Laotian peoples of Indochina -- and was again defeated. The U.S. continued on this same line since the disappearance of the Soviet bloc -- only in the name of "ending Islamic terrorism." Today the Resistance in Iraq is actually militarily defeating the "invincible" US-led coalition. On January 26th 2006, in Palestine, a people currently enduring the most brutal occupation anywhere on this planet elected a government to be led by Hamas. This is an organization vehemently rejected by the entire, allegedly "civilized," Western world for one reason: Hamas rejects the idea that the State of Israel can continue in the form it was founded, as the land-thief and expropriator of the national rights of the Palestinians to be in their own territory.
Since the end of
WWII, this disconnect between killing capability and genocidal intention
itself has also become symptomatic in some of the highest establishment
circles of a more general kind of failure of "historical memory." The U.S.
comedian Mel Brooks savaged this phenomenon with devastating accuracy. At
the time of UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim's WWII service, he was the
Nazi general at the Greek port of Thessaloniki who organized the
deportations to concentration camps of Jewish and other populations from
the entire zone of Thrace and northeastern Greece. This was suddenly
headline news throughout the world, and Waldheim attempted to deny his
conscious participation in crimes against humanity. Brooks summarized it
as a case of "Waldheimer's Disease: you wake up one morning and forget you
were a Nazi."
Other Articles by Gary Zatzman