STEALING THE HOLOCAUST
By the CyberRav—Rabbi Rafi Rank
Language is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for creating impressions and advancing arguments. Every word out of our mouth is a test of our moral integrity, as the power of the tongue will create either truth or falsehood. That is why our tradition addresses the problem of lashon harah, gossip, extensively, as the perpetuation of gossip and idle, mindless chatter about others can so easily create wrong impressions, if not downright slanderous perceptions of others within the community.
Lashon harah literally means “evil speech,” a translation that moves me to remind people just how careful we must be in our choice of words, regardless of the subject matter. One of the more disturbing aspects of Palestinian propaganda is its co-opting of the language of the Holocaust to describe its own miserable state as well as the actions of the Israeli government. Gaza has been compared to the Warsaw ghetto, Israeli soldiers to Nazis, and the entire plight of the Palestinians may be described as a holocaust. In using such emotionally charged language, the Palestinian sympathizers hope to turn public opinion against Israel. And they have succeeded to some extent.
But turning public opinion against Israel still does not resolve the fundamental problems that the Palestinians face—lack of nationhood, unemployment, economic instability, local violence and so forth. To the contrary, by advancing comparisons with the Holocaust that in no way describe their reality, they encourage the world community to generate solutions that are equally unrealistic. A real problem can be solved only after the real problem is clearly identified.
This Wednesday night, April 30, I hope you will remember to light your yahrzeit candles in memory of the 6,000,000 Jews who perished during World War II. Hitler blamed the Jews for many of Germany’s ills. Get rid of the Jews, he reasoned, and we could get rid of Germany’s ills. In blaming the Jews for crimes they never committed, their deaths corrected no problem the Germans ever faced. So Hitler decimated European Jewry, did not address the problems Germany truly faced, and ultimately created even more problems for Germany, not the least of which is a legacy of genocide that the German conscience must now bear forever.
Lashon harah—what is it? It’s distorted thinking, stupid reasoning, inaccurate comparisons; it is evil language. It is inevitably the beginning of even bigger problems. The Palestinians deserve much better than what they presently have, but they would advance their cause with greater speed by the critical review of their own failed leadership than deploying language that does not address their present situation or accurately reflect historical fact.
In observing Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Day, which this year falls on May 1, 2008, we will remember the senseless deaths of 6,000,000 Jews, how important it is for all people to live in security and freedom, and how dangerous it is to let sloppy thinking generate political solutions.
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