The Holocaust, Sacred Ground and Obama’s Selective View of the Struggle for Human Dignity
In a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., flanked by such Zionist luminaries as Elie Wiesel and Michael Oren, President Barack Obama referred to “those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem,” the vast Holocaust memorial complex in Jerusalem. But considering the horrors of the Holocaust didn’t occur anywhere near the grounds of Yad Vashem, one has to wonder what makes those grounds so hallowed. After all, Auschwitz is over 1,500 miles away from Jerusalem; Treblinka is nearly 1,600 miles away; Dachau is almost 1,700 miles away; Buchenwald is over 1,800 miles away. Do all Holocaust Museums stand on “sacred ground” just because of the subject matter they commemorate? If so, wasn’t Obama himself standing on sacred ground at 100 15th Street SW in the District of Columbia? Will the ground upon which the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of (In)Tolerance is being built be sacred because of the museum, or because of the ancient Muslim cemetery it has uprooted and destroyed?
Perhaps the grounds of Yad Vashem are sacred, though. Only a short distance away, within eyesight, is where Deir Yassin used to be before Zionist militias wiped it and its inhabitants off the face of the Earth.
Obama spoke of atrocities committed upon countless innocents, “just for being different, just for being Jewish” and warned against “the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.” One wonders what he would say if confronted with the fact that the indigenous people of Palestine are deliberately, systematically and institutionally discriminated against, imprisoned without charge or trial, occupied and colonized, bombed and burned, shot at and under siege because they are not Jewish and because they refuse to forget who they are and where they come from, they refuse to acquiesce to the six and a half decades of ethnic cleansing, aided and abetted, funded, immunized and ignored by the nation Barack Obama now represents.
Obama said that “‘Never again’ is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security — and that includes the State of Israel.” He mentioned Israel by name six additional times in his speech. Never once did the words Palestine or Palestinians cross his lips. He then proceeded to conflate Zionism with Judaism, present international law as anti-Semitic, and pulled a Netanyahu by warning of the looming specter of a caricatured Iran, one that exists only in the warped minds of fear merchants and warmongers.
Said Obama, “When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
Obama also spoke of civilians “subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights,” he spoke of “all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them,” and vowed to “sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine” to those desperately in need. Obama praised those who “still brave the streets,” who “still demand to be heard” and “still seek their dignity.” He praised the “people [who] have not given up.”
He was referring to Syria, of course, and not to Bil’in, Ni’lin, or Budrus. He didn’t mean tanks in Gaza, IDF snipers who open fire on unarmed protesters and murder schoolchildren or the torture and abuse of Palestinians- including children – in Israeli jails. When he spoke of “unspeakable violence,” the “humanitarian effort” and the “legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice,” Obama obviously didn’t mean the devastation of Gaza by the Israeli military, the ongoing humanitarian crisis there or the recommendations of the Goldstone Report.
Obama patted himself on the back for “sign[ing] an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence.” Of course, these sanctions were not extended to U.S. chums Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, or South Korea – all places where internet censorship is rampant and pervasive.
Obama concluded by stating, “To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future — to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice” and declared, “If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.”
He was speaking, rightfully, to the survivors of the Holocaust. But he was also, unwittingly and unwillingly, speaking for those who continue to struggle for equal rights, for universal rights, for dignity, freedom, sovereignty and self-determination, for justice long deferred in their own historic and ancestral homeland. He was speaking for Palestine.
But don’t tell Elie Wiesel.