The Doublethink of “Genocide Education”

Fall 2023 is a strange time to be alive or to die.

For example, “genocide education” is being instigated to enable current genocidal policies. The Nazi Holocaust is increasingly being deployed to justify killing and dispossessing Palestinians.

Recently Israel’s delegation at the United Nations wore yellow stars, a symbol of Nazi persecution of Jews. The stunt was so over-the-top it prompted the decidedly Zionist Yad Vashem holocaust museum to denounce it. In effect, representatives of a nuclear armed state that has killed 10,000 in four weeks, with the assistance of the world’s hegemon, seeks to play victim in a potential bid to drive Palestinians from Gaza.

Another more consequential mobilizing of the Nazi Holocaust is the repeated claim that Hamas’ October 7 attack was the “bloodiest day for Jews since the Nazi Holocaust”. On October 21 the Chair of the Canadian Anti- Hate Network, Bernie Farber, wrote: “Hamas has revealed itself as the Nazi butchers of the 21st century. It boggles my mind that there appear to be some in Canada who are either wilfully blind about the murderous rampage of their Nazi killing units.”

But Hamas targeted Israel, which has colonized them. Seventy per cent of Gaza’s population was driven from their homes by Zionists in 1947–48 and they’ve all faced an ongoing blockade and multiple brutal bombings. To link Hamas’ actions to the Nazi holocaust is, in fact, a bid to justify Israel massacring Palestinians and an insult to the victims of Nazi crimes.

Amidst an ever-more overt mobilization of the Nazi Holocaust to justify Israel’s killing of 5,000 Palestinian children British Columbia’s government decided to make Holocaust education mandatory for high school students last week. Making the announcement at a community centre adorned with Israeli flags, Premier David Eby connected his initiative to a “incredibly frightening time” over the past month. For some its “frightening” that thousands have protested Israel’s genocidal policies.

After establishing mandatory holocaust education in grade 6 last year the Conservatives expanded its role in the Ontario curriculum last week. They are now also mandating it for Grade 10. Previously it had been mandated in the Grade 10 Canadian history curriculum though that focused on how the Holocaust impacted Canadian society and human rights.

As part of the announcement Ontario put up $650,000 for education projects run by genocide lobby groups Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Alongside an endless stream of anti-Palestinian, pro-violence messages, CIJA recently posted a message from the Israeli president that claimed: “This is a war between the people who seek to bring light and the people who seek to bring darkness.”

Last Tuesday UJA Toronto and CIJA organized a tour of their Holocaust museum for the chief of police and his staff. It’s part of their push to have the police repress Palestine solidarity protests as “hate”. (A march organizer in Calgary was arrested on Sunday for chanting “from the river to get sea, Palestine will be free”.)

Mobilizing the Nazi Holocaust to enable Palestinian dispossession is not new. In response to the embarrassing display by Israel’s ambassador at the UN, Sean McCarthy posted “Norman Finkelstein: most vindicated man in history”. McCarthy included a photo of Israel’s UN ambassador with the yellow star and another with Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. The book details how the Nazi’s destruction of European Jewry is used as an ideological cover for Israeli crimes. Finkelstein argues that the promotion of the “uniqueness doctrine” of Jewish suffering has granted Israel cover to violate all manner of international norms and he links the rise of the holocaust industry to the geopolitical service Israel provided Washington when it destroyed pan-Arabism in 1967.

Since the book was published in 2000 the “holocaust industry” has expanded greatly. The apartheid lobby has pushed governments and different bodies to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. The explicit aim of many pushing the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, which the federal government adopted in 2019, is to silence or marginalize those who criticize Palestinian dispossession.

Alongside similar positions in the US and Israel, Justin Trudeau’s government created a Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism. The inaugural envoy was leading apartheid campaigner Irwin Cotler and the new envoy is Deborah Lyons who organized a pizza party for Canadians fighting in the Israeli military when she was Canada’s ambassador in Tel Aviv.

In recent weeks the weaponization of antisemitism has skyrocketed alongside opposition to Israel’s genocidal policies. In one of the more absurd examples, the spokesperson for armoured vehicle manufacturer INKAS said protesting it was antisemitic. Last Monday World Beyond War Canada organized a picket of the arms manufacturer in Toronto over its sales to the Israeli military. INKAS executive Dimitri Khazanski told CBC the protesters were there because “we are a Jewish family. We are targeted number one because we are Jews. This shows the rise of antisemitism in this country.”

It’s unlikely anyone knew the company had Jewish owners (I’m skeptical if that’s even true). And if it matters, the main organizer of World Beyond War in Toronto is Jewish. What do you even say to someone claiming its antisemitic to protest the arms industry?

The Israel lobby is smearing everyone as anti-Jewish. They are doing it to justify the slaughter of 5,000 Palestinian children.

How many will be too many for the supporters of Israel’s genocidal policies?

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.