The Difference Between Genocide and Diplomacy

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Mike Huckabee could not have picked a worse week to say that the Iran deal will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”  I have spent the last three days, and will spend the rest of my time in Paris at the Mémorial de la Shoah looking at primary source documents from the Nazis.  It has been an emotionally intense couple of days and to wake up this morning to Huckabees comments are infuriating.  

First there is the issue of the Iran deal.  It is a sound deal that has taken us nearly a decade to reach.  It is preventing the Iranians from developing nuclear capacity.  Its a win.  I could go into detail, but since this is my fathers area and he can explain its merits much better I will refer you to one of his articles.

I on the other hand, can speak to the ludicrous and offensive comparison to the Holocaust.  For the past couple days I have spent eight hours a day staring at pages with the Nazi Eagle stamped on the bottom.  Yesterday, I was looking through documents from the French Office on the Jewish Question.  In that folder I found the document where the French authorized the deportation of all foreign Jews living in France, but demanded French Jews stay.  Over seventy years ago, this piece paper was signed and then sent to the German occupying forces.  This paper is what allowed French soldiers to carry out the roundups of Velodrome d’Hiver, where 13,000 foreign Jews (mostly women and children) where rounded up in Paris and deported to Drancy.  The majority of who were sent to Auschwitz where they died.  This piece of paper set off a chain reaction, resulting in the murder of tens of thousands of innocent people.

If I was doing research in France back then, instead of today, that piece of paper would have essentially ordered my death.  Since I study genocide people often ask me if this is somehow tied to my Jewish heritage.  I say no.  For every genocide I study and every mass grave I visit I feel the same deep visceral and human emotions.  I did not feel more at the concentration camps, because I am Jewish.  My heart hurt in Poland, in Bosnia, in Germany, and in Rwanda because I am human.  I will admit, however, there is an added degree of emotion, when you know without a doubt, that in this conflict you would have been killed.  

The Holocaust was one of the most brutal events of the 20th century.  The killings so violent and systematic, that Raphael Lemkin felt a need to invent a word for what had transpired.  In those six years, millions of people, not just Jews, were marched to the gas chambers and annihilated for inalienable aspects of their identity.  I, like Huckabee, have been to these camps.  I have visited Majdanek, Treblinka, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Sobibor, Plashow, Belzec, and Neuengamme.  I have stood in the gas chambers, and seen fingernail scratches in the cement, the walls stained blue from human skin reacting with Zyklon B.  I have seen ashes of 80,000 people piled high in a mausoleum.  Huckabee seems to think that because he’s visited Auschwitz, he can make these comments.  Bearing witness to history, does give him the right to manipulate it for his own political goals.

Not only did Mike Huckabee compare the systematic extermination of eleven million people to the potential outcome of the Iran deal, he also used the two dirtiest words of genocide studies, “Never Again.”  People started with this mantra after WWII and ever since it has been the broken soundtrack of politicians in post-conflict settings.  We said never again to the Holocaust.  We said never again to Cambodia, to Rwanda, to Bosnia.  A few decades ago, this phrase lost its meaning.  Politicians shout “never again” loud enough so their constituents can hear them, but not so loud that they actually have to do anything.  

Genocide is a complex issues and although Iran is the only state that officially denies the Holocaust, they’re not about to start another one.  His statement also implies that Israel is incapable of defending itself.  Huckabee’s comments are insulting to a myriad of people.  They’re offensive to Jews, to anyone who’s worked on the Iran deal, to the state of Istael or really anyone who has studied genocide.

I write this post from the Mémorial de la Shoah, in the old Jewish neighborhood in Paris.  In a building with steel doors, an x-ray machine, armed police, and members of the military guarding it.  Anti-Semitism is alive and well, I don’t deny that.  There are places in this world where it is unsafe to be a Jew.  The signing of the Iran deal has not condemned the Jewish people to anything. The deal is an act of diplomacy.  Theres a big difference between diplomacy and genocide.  I suggest that Huckabee hits the books and learns that before he considers continuing with his presidential campaign.

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