Herb London: What Jewish Museums Won't Show

Feb 19, 2014

Holocaust museums around the globe present in remarkably graphic form pre-war Nazi conditions that promoted anti-Semitism and the belief that Jews were sub-human. Children read schoolbooks in which Jews were depicted as exploitive, dangerous, lacking in essential human qualities. Jews were demonized to an extent that led inexorably to concentration camps and extermination. The horror of this period is told and retold in museums as a reminder that this must never happen again. Propaganda of a vicious variety has consequences, a condition the world now knows all too well.

Or does it? For decades Palestinian school texts repeat the same dangerous lies about Jews. A crossword puzzle for children asks “what is a four letter word for an exploitive people? Answer: Jews.” Summer camp bunks in the Arab section of the West Bank are named after “martyrs” who have killed Israeli women and children.

Last year Syria had a four part television series on “the blood libel” the claim that Jews kill Christian youth so their blood can be used for the making of matzos. Saudi textbooks have actually reprinted perverse Nazi cartoons from the 1930’s. And the Protocols of The Elders of Zion, a classic anti-Semitic book based on nothing more than the ill-advised ideas of a fantasist, has been reprinted in many Arab venues and has been circulated by imams as evidence of Jewish turpitude.

None of this material is surprising. It has been revealed in many newspapers and journals. There have been courageous journalists who have campaigned against these contemporary atrocities. Yet progressive Jewish leaders and Holocaust museum curators ignore these conditions.

If one attends a Holocaust museum, the last exhibit is invariably on genocides in our time from the boat people in Vietnam, to the long march in Cambodia, to Darfur.  Poignant photographs are displayed that tug at the heart strings and display Jewish sensitivity to human depravity. This is as it should be. If any group is aware of the horror people can inflict on one another it is the Jews.

However, what is missing is the existential evidence of anti-Semitism. Where are the tracts pointing to the rise of anti-Semitism in many European communities, the hatred directed against Jews in Muslim populations, and the vile images about Jews promoted in Arab and Persian nations? I suspect the reason for this obvious omission is political correctness. It is certainly not a lack of awareness.

I reside near the downtown Holocaust Museum and admire the way history is recaptured in the exhibits. It is also telling that the final pathway in the museum offers a splendid view of the Statue of Liberty. Yet remarkably, challenges to Jewish liberty at the moment are ignored. There appears to be a deep sense that what is happening across the globe now could be glossed over.

In a perverse way this is history repeating itself. So many Jews in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930’s dismissed the routine caricatures of Jewish life as adolescent rants, something that will evanesce over time. Why make a fuss about this matter? It seemed better to avoid controversy. I suspect that is the same explanation used by curators now. Political correctness is a silencing device used by some Jewish leaders against Jewish interests.

It is time to realize museums are a sacred cultural trust that not only tell a story of the past, but offer a narrative of what must be countered in the present. If “Never Again” is a goal – a goal that should not be forgotten – then the anti-Semitic facts of our time should be told just as museum attendees are reminded of the historic horror of the Shoah.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research,  a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

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