Bret Stephens, writing in the Opinion Journal, points out some things that helped pave the way to the recently concluded Holocaust denial festival in Tehran.
Moral denunciation is what reasonable people do–what they must do–when a regime that avows the future extermination of six million Jews in Israel denies the past extermination of six million Jews in Europe. But let's be frank: Global polite society has been blazing its own merry trail toward this occasion for decades.
The Australian Financial Review is not the Journal of Historical Review, the Holocaust-denying "scholarly" vehicle of some of the Tehran conferees. But in 2002 the AFR thought it fit to print the following by Joseph Wakim, at one point the country's multicultural affairs commissioner: "Sharon's war is not a war," he wrote. "Genocide would be a more accurate description." In Ireland Tom McGurk, a columnist in the very mainstream Sunday Business Post, noted that "the scenes at Jenin last week looked uncannily like the attack on the Warsaw Jewish ghetto in 1944." Jose Saramago, Portugal's Nobel Laureate in Literature, observed after a visit to Ramallah that the Israeli incursion into the city "is a crime that may be compared to Auschwitz."
Never mind that the total number of Jews "dealt with" in the Warsaw ghetto, according to Nazi commandant Jürgen Stroop, was 56,065, whereas the number of Palestinians killed in Jenin was no more than 60. Never mind that at the time Mr. Saramago visited Ramallah a total of about 1,500 Palestinians had been killed in the Intifada, whereas Jews were murdered at Auschwitz at a rate of about 2,000 a day. Let's concede that, for the sake of moral truth, strained comparisons may still serve useful rhetorical purposes. (Jews and Israelis also often make inapt Holocaust and Nazi comparisons.) Let's concede, too, that the comments cited above amount to criticisms of Israeli policy, nothing more.
The emptiness of moral equivalency is on full display in the examples Stephens cites. And there are a lot more of them from a lot of influential people. There is a concerted effort to dehumanize Israel going on from all over "polite society". There is raging anti-Semitism masquerading behind the label "anti-Zionist". And those voices calling out the loudest on this helped stage the recent hate-fest Ahmadinejad threw for a small collection of cretins. Though few in actual number, the attendees made a lot of headlines all over the world. And polite society helped make it all possible.
Parts of "polite society" are also bringing war and real genocide much, much closer. Politely, of course. Paving the way with good intentions.