By R. Don Prange
I am responding to the Oct. 6 letter by Roy Stokes: "What's in place to prevent another Auschwitz?"
He references the Washington Holocaust Museum and its views of "the remains of history" that witness to the "killing industry" conducted by Nazi Germany, and how a hysteria was cultivated that gave impetus to that industry. Then he cites parallels with a "prison industry" and how that becomes acceptable to our citizenry because of "job creation." And he concludes by asking, "What checks and balances are in place to assure Auschwitz doesn't rise again? What checks and balances have been removed to assure it does?"
To be sure, the letter has in mind the possibilities of how a propaganda machine like that in Nazi Germany could be used against Muslims today, and given the hysteria of an Islamophobia among us, that is a very legitimate concern. So, his questions are urgent ones.
But perhaps some answers need to begin with some other perceptions on "the remains of history" offered by Holocaust museums, and I suggest two valuable book resources: "The Holocaust Industry" (a very suggestive title), by Norman G. Finkelstein, Verso Books, 2000, and "Ending Auschwitz" by Marc Ellis, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994.
These books have special significance because their Jewish authors are among the "checks and balances" that have already been "removed" - removed from teaching positions at prestigious U.S. universities that gave in to intensive lobbying by Jewish organizations who support the Zionist State of Israel because the authors have been critical of Israel's policies in already creating "another Auschwitz" in the invasion and occupation of Palestinian land and territory. Israel and its policies often have been justified by some because of the atrocities of Auschwitz, just as they have been used to perpetuate support by U.S. foreign policy and by many un-critical U.S. citizens. Can the "views" - dare we say propaganda - of Holocaust museums possibly give rise to a "hysteria" similar to that of Nazi Germany leading to "another Auschwitz" today?
And among other "checks and balances" that have been "removed" is that you will never find such a critique of Israel's policies, backed up by U.S. foreign policy, finding its way into commentaries in mainstream media that continue to serve a propaganda machine that targets not only Muslims here, but Muslims worldwide.
That the "killing industry" of Nazi Germany needs to be condemned is a given. But if Israel's policies are now to be defended as a "solution" to those injustices and atrocities, then we need to hear prophetic voices like those of Finkelstein and Ellis in the tradition of the Prophet Jeremiah who stood at the temple gates in Jerusalem and challenged the atrocities of the state of Israel of another era. (Jeremiah 7:1-11).
The Rev. R. Don Prange is a Winchester resident and part-time minister at St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville, and works with the Ministries of Economic Justice, a ministry of education and advocacy.