Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Holocaust: A real side-splitter

The question has been posed about what my position is on the holocaust cartoon competition being run by the Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, and whether I would consider publishing the cartoons. My position on this one is unlikely to make me many friends. I will defend the right of a newspaper to publish a cartoon, regardless of how offensive it might be. If a bunch of anti-Semites in Tehran decide they want to deny a basic fact of history, then it is their right to do so. Naive as a might be, I have enough faith in the integrity of the horrific stories of the holocaust that I believe they can withstand a fringe of raving loonies.

As to publishing them, in the interests of free speech and public debate, I would. If I could get a copy of them. Thus far, it has proven a little tricky. I've found a few of them through this site here, although it's not clear if those are actual entries, or just generic examples of holocaust denying cartoons. Perhaps I should cut out the middle man and just look here.

UPDATE, 19/2 1:15am: I don't normally take the bait when it comes to comments, but there are a few things worth clearing up.

Firstly, thanks to Cameron for his sanctimonious lectures in the past few posts on the need for cultural sensitivity and the need to abstain from causing religious and racial offence. This is the same Cameron who gave me a farewell present prior to my Korean trip of a guide to greyhound dogs, which he oh-so-tactfully referred to as a 'Korean restaurant menu'. Bad taste, but kinda funny, Cameron - just like the Mohammad cartoons.

Secondly, PB wants me to apologise for/clarify my insinuation that Leunig is a holocaust-denier. The comment I made in the post was coy and playful, and should be interpreted that way. Having said that, Leunig does get agonisingly close to being a denier, if you look as him drawing an equivalence between the slaughter of six million and the Israeli anti-terror policies (the "'Work makes free' and 'War makes peace'" cartoon that set the ball rolling). I hardly think Leunig deserves any sort of apology.

UPDATE, 20/2 1:30pm: Okay folks, seems like there's a bit of terminology confusion here. The phrase 'holocaust denier' does not simply refer to only those who outright deny that there was any atrocity in Nazi Germany. Instead it covers a much broader scope of views, including those which seek to downplay it, recontextualise it, reassign blame etc. Have a look at the Wikipedia entry. To my mind, an attempt to draw a parallel between the actions of Nazi Germany and the actions of the Israeli government (as the Leunig cartoon does) gets close to a form of denial, namely of the scale of the holocaust and the intentions of the perpetrators. Having said that, I didn't label Leunig as a denier, merely attempted some black humour. I know: hilarious.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ouch Mr Ari,

Perhaps a little rewrite of your last paragraph might divert some possible pain, the type of which I know from personal experience ain't very pleasant. However if it is what you intended then so be it, good luck.

Some 15 minutes can last a lifetime.

Cheers

Cameron

Jepi said...

Ari,

I've been very interested about your blog posts about the cartoon issue, both involving Mohammed and the Holocaust. I think it is brave of you to take this position in support of free speech, and it is clearly consistent with your decision to publish the Mohammed cartoons on-line that you are willing to display Holocaust ones as well.

I have to say, though, that I also agree with your statement that your position is "naive". It is basically the equivalent in the realm of culture to Laise Faire or neoliberal capitalism: just let people do what they want and the market, or in this case people's good sense, will sort things out.

However, it is clear that when we support an ideal such as "free speech", it is never neutal or good in and of itself. I am equivocal as to whether people have a "right" to publish these cartoons, but I do not think it contributes anything to human freedom or to the spread of enlightenment, and clearly exacerbates tensions with the others of the West. The socio-economic dimension of the debate must also not be lost: what appears to educated Westerners as a matter of enlightened principles is to lower class Muslims a violent attack on their religion by those who are already oppressing them economically.

So I reserve the right to be offended by the Holocaust cartoons. There are some things that are better unsaid. And I do not see why Europe, which is doing what is does so well in not-tollerating the other of the Muslim living among them, has diverted the blame onto the other of the Jew.

Free speech is never neutral.

John Lee said...

the race to offend is on
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=85446

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Ari, but I have to say that your efforts regarding the Leunig exposure have been piss weak. Writers/bloggers such as Michael Gawenda, Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt etc have given Leunig both barrels, and rightly so.

Perhaps you could start by responding to Cameron at #1 above.

This is no time for you to be missing in action, or writing about Metung real estate (and you can see how many comments THAT gnerated).

N.

Peter Billing said...

Ari, I appreciate you're not a fan of Leunig, and that you're deeply angry with him for his open opposition to Israel foreign policy, but you're bordering very close to defamation in that last paragraph by alleging he is a holocaust denier.

I've given it is some thought and I'm calling you out. I'd like to see you post some evidence Leunig is a holocaust denier or a retraction of the allegation, with or without an apology.

If it helps, the retraction can be by way of "clarification", explaining how your remarks have been misinterpreted. In any case, the allegation must be clearly proven or denied.

Your status as an honest correspondent relies on this, Ari ol' son.

John Lee said...

Moral equivalence and holocaust denial are different things. Leunig's cartoon assumes the Holocaust actually happened, otherwise what would he be comparing the Palestinian issue to?

Leunig could have made a legitimate point that Israel's current policies will never solve its security problem. As is, he destroys it with an untenable and offensive comparison. Firstly there's the disproportion between what the Palestinians have suffered and what happened in the Holocaust. Then there's the implication that Israel's leaders are, like the slogan on the gate at Auschwitz, completely mendacious; that they've manufactured the Intifada for some ulterior purpose (staying in power, presumably).

R. Berman said...

The "War makes peace" / "Work makes free" cartoon that Leunig created draws a moral equivalence in terms of the atrocities that were, and are being committed. Whether it is holocaust denial is questionable, but not neccesarily an untenable position. 'War makes Peace' in context, is basically as Ari said an 'anti terror'aphorism, however also represents, in context, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where bold, erratic, moves take place and the Palestinians definitely want an audience to bare witness i.e. A Jihad. Conversely, 'Work makes Free' in context concerns a misleading Germanic Aphorism which is surreptitious and as any educated person would realise did not want a world audience to bare witness...

What one could arguably say is that while Leunig may claim moral equivalence, the wider ramifications, and consequently the comparative nature of the cartoon renders it a rather mendacious piece with little or no historical significance. On furthur analysis this dubious, comparative, material could in a sense be a form of denying the truth and thus be a form of holocaust denial...(Hope that clears a few things up :)

Anonymous said...

Ari you said "This is the same Cameron who gave me a farewell present prior to my Korean trip of a guide to greyhound dogs, which he oh-so-tactfully referred to as a 'Korean restaurant menu'."

Nah mate you have me mixed up with some other dude, he sounds pretty obnoxious...btw I thought it was about a different breed.

Actually there must be some sensitivity here somewhere because my main thought after your post was not to leap to the defence of Mr Leunig whom I hold in fairly high regard, but rather some concern for your good self for two reasons. The first was that I would rather not see you get hurt for what appeared to be an injudicious labelling of Mr Leunig as a holocaust denier, but more importantly that you, Ari, would do something that I feel to be basically out of character. While not expecting total objectiveness there seemed to be a certain standard of writing you strove to achieve, and to let that slide to such an extent points to the intensity with which you view the issue. I open to hearing what stokes those fires, not to judge but perhaps to better understand why.

Cheers

Cameron

Berman: I do wonder what approach a Palestinian Ari would have taken to Michael’s cartoon.

Daniel said...

Hey is that the Cameron who once 'goanna wrestled' me? My neck still remembers the soreness!

Daniel

Peter Billing said...

Ari...

How can you possibly describe that cartoon as holocaust denial? At the top of the left frame it says where and when. Its existence is essential to the point, for if it didn't exist the comparison between the two cannot exist.

(And just as I'm writing this I notice someone else has already made the point. And more eloquently than I, John Lee!)

The two phrases are equally ridiculous and in my view, equally real. Naturally, that is a question of fact and, I think, the essence of ours and many others disagreement, so we'll leave that there.

Sounds like a good excuse for a beer and chat, Ari, but on the face of it it seems to me you're confusing the idea of a disagreement with Israel's policies with denying the Holocaust. The two are *completely* different and in your quieter, less heated moments I think you agree, or at least you used to.

I had a whole para here which, I've just deleted, about the difference between anti-Israel and anti-Semitism, but as I read these comments more thoroughly, I think it missed the point a bit.

I'll therefore content myself with completely agreeing with Cameron's second post, particularly the last para. I'm worried about you, big fella.

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

I'm still smarting over Ari calling me sanctimonious.

From worldreference.com.

Sanctimonious: excessively or hypocritically pious;
Related words: holier-than-thou, pietistic, pietistical, pharisaic, pharisaic.

Now the last two come from the noun Pharasee which is defined as “a member of an ancient Jewish sect noted for strict obedience to Jewish traditions”

Okay, maybe I have been a wee bit sanctimonious.

Hi Daniel,

Me goanna wrestling??? Nah, no way, you have done an Ari and mixed me up with some other bloke, sounds dangerous, wouldn’t touch it.

The only reference I can find on the net about a Cameron and goanna wrestling is here (see near the bottom),

http://www.cremaster.com.au/sandypointtrip2006.htm

What a bunch of yobs.

Cheers,

Cameron

Anonymous said...

Okay Ari,

My sensitive side would love to leave you with the last word but the Pharasee in me has a question...

"The phrase 'holocaust denier' does not simply refer to only those who outright deny that there was any atrocity in Nazi Germany. Instead it covers a much broader scope of views, including those which seek to downplay it, recontextualise it, reassign blame etc. Have a look at the Wikipedia entry."

I've looked and I've looked and quite possibly I need new glasses but are you sure the Wikipedia entry says that?

Cheers,

Cameron

Anonymous said...

Cameron, Ari has summarised the (rather long) Wikipedia entry - see "Holocaust Denial" - very accurately.

Why would even THINK to post your last comment? You clearly DID NOT read the Wikipedia entry referred to above.

Perhaps you and PB should take a long hard look at your own views. And look carefully at the Leunig cartoon while you're doing so. Note that the men in the foreground of the two panels are both marked with the Star of David. They are Jews, pure and simple, and the second is not identifiably an Israeli. Note smoke rises from the events in the second panel, but no smoking chimneys appear in the first. Note more barbed wire in the second panel than in the first. Note no guards in the first panel -the Jew enters Auschwitz voluntarily. Note no chaos or bodies in the first panel.

As a previous poster wrote, Leunig deserves to be exposed. Read Gawenda and the others. With an open mind, please.

There is far too much willingness on the Left to confuse (or transpose) perpetratror and victim.

Q-

Anonymous said...

Hi Q,

Yes I did read it and it would seem obvious that in order to tar Leunig, however slightly, with the brush of Holocaust denier, Ari set about softening the definition so that it might include the cartoon. However the Wikipedia piece is quite definite about what constitutes a ‘denier’

It clearly states; “Holocaust deniers make the following claims, though not all Holocaust deniers make all of the claims listed:” it then goes on to list those claims. I defy you to hang a single one of them around Leunig’s neck.

Leunig in no way endeavours to dismiss or devalue the Holocaust. Your complaint should be that he attempts to promote the actions of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians as those having echos of the Nazi regime, although I’m not even sure he does that. In Ari’s mind, and apparently yours, that idea is so untenable the only explanation is Leunig is a ‘Holocaust denier’.

The interesting thing to me is why you do this. Is it because to entertain the apparently ‘untenable’ would mean examining and attempting to justify the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel? You would obviously deny those echoes are there but if others see them why should they be attacked? For instance some people will see the building of the wall as having echoes of the ghettoisation of the Jews in the 30s? Others may see the use of civilian shields by the army (now thankfully outlawed by the Government) as having echoes of some of tactics of the German army. Even others may see the almost total control the government has over the Palestinian economy and the consequential supply of cheap labour as having echoes of the slave workers during the war. Are all these people to be called deniers for seeing those connections, as tenuous as they may be?

To me however the cartoon contained a different message. It was about a lie that enabled governments of occupied countries, and sometimes even Jewish leaders, to justify organising transportation of so many subsequent victims of the Nazi regime. The other lie depicted is the one that says the killing, subjugation, brutalisation, and humiliation of a people is justifiable because it will ultimately bring peace.

I’m not going to defend Leunig’s cartoon on its merits because I personally think this was not a high point in his artistic and political endeavours, but to even loosely brand him a Holocaust denier speaks far more to problems with your good self. If I am being invited to open my mind could I invite you to look inside your own.

Cheers,

Cameron

P.S. Okay small things amuse small minds but I have just been getting a kick out of looking at the Google ads on this page. The first lot contained an Anti-terrorist bomb detection kit, the second an ad for peace studies at some uni, and the last for ‘psychotherapy on line’ at www.shrink-me.com. I suppose they all have some relevance to the topic.

Anonymous said...

Cameron,

1. You didn't read the whole Wikipedia article. It extends beyond the first paragraph. Try again, please.

2. "The interesting thing to me is why you do this. DOES TRUTH NOT MATTER TO YOU? Is it because to entertain the apparently ‘untenable’ would mean examining and attempting to justify the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel? I HAVE NO TROUBLE EXAMINING ISRAEL'S TREATMENT OF THE PALESTINIANS. DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM EXAMINING THE PAELESINIANS' TREATMENT OF INNOCENT ISRAELIS IN BUSES AND IN RESTAURANTS? You would obviously deny those echoes are there but if others see them why should they be attacked? ECHOES? For instance some people will see the building of the wall as having echoes of the ghettoisation of the Jews in the 30s? QUE? THE ISRAELIS BUILD BARRIERS TO KEEP SUICIDE BOMBERS OUT. THE NAZIS CREATED GHETTOS TO KEEP JEWS IN. THE PALESTINIANS ARE FREE TO GO WHEREVER THEY LIKE (APART FROM INTO ISRAEL, IF THEY ARE INTENT UPON MURDER). THE JEWS IN THE GHETTOS WERE NOT FREE TO LEAVE. YOU CHEAPEN THE HOLOCAUST. Others may see the use of civilian shields by the army (now thankfully outlawed by the Government) as having echoes of some of tactics of the German army. QUE? AGAIN. SHIELDS? RIOT POLICE ALL OVER THE WORLD USE THEM. WHY DO YOU SINGLE OUT ISRAEL? I'VE NEVER SEEN A PICTURE OF NAZIS USING THEM, BY THE WAY. BUT THEN NOT MANY JEWS GOT THE CHANCE TO THROW ROCKS AT THEM. AND WHAT "TACTICS" ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Even others may see the almost total control the government has over the Palestinian economy and the consequential supply of cheap labour as having echoes of the slave workers during the war. SLAVE WORKERS? YOU MEAN WORK PEOPLE TO THEIR DEATH IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS? Are all these people to be called deniers for seeing those connections, as tenuous as they may be? THE ANSWER IS "YES". INDEED, SOME WOULD GO FURTHER, AND SAY THAT THE ALLEGED COMPARISONS ARE SO OBVIOUSLY FALSE AND DISTORTED THAT THOSE MAKING THEM MIGHT FAIRLY BE CONSIDERED ANTI SEMITIC"

Israel CAN be criticised - and it is (loudly and often, by its own completely free press, amongst others - see Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, for example). That's okay. It is a Democracy. Comparisons with Nazi germany, however, are odious and inaccurate - and very obviously so. They are only used, it seems, to diminish the Holocaust and to cause maximum hurt to Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

Keep looking long and hard at your own views, Cameron. You might not like what you see.

Q-

Anonymous said...

Cameron,

I just reread my post. I'm sorry, but I misundertood the reference to "shields". Yes, the practice of using human shields was inappropriate and unjustifiable. The IDF can fairly be criticised for having employed the tactic.

It was ordered to cease doing it by the Israel Supreme Court (which has also ordered the Israel Government to adjust the route of the separation barrier from time to time). That is what courts are for. Israel is a democracy, and its courts are independent. Just another point of difference between Israel and Nazi Germany.

Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Human Rights Groups and others regularly bring cases before the courts in Israel. I have no concerns about that. If the Government acts inappropriately, then the rule of law prevails.

Things are rather different in the PA controlled areas, and in (much of) the rest of the Muslim world.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, again.

The last post (about the "shields") was by me. I forgot to add my "signature".

Q-

Anonymous said...

Hi Q,

Beslan and Passover?

Tora Bora and Masada?

Cameron

Anonymous said...

Cameron,

I can't follow your last post, but no matter.

Maybe check this out: "Court rejects Mofaz petition for hearing on 'human shield'" banhttp://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/687964.html

It illustrates the point that I made regarding the rule of law in Israel - and the fact that Isreal has a free press. Where is the equivalent on the other side? Seriously.

Stay calm.

Q-

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the sparseness of the last post Q … they were musings of part time history buffs whose emotional detachment throw up links that are obviously not evident to those involved more personally in the issues.

They arose from a conversation with a few old friends discussing my being labelled a Holocaust denier by yourself and Ari. For some reason they found this to be extremely hilarious especially as they were at pains to remind me of my past Israelophile tendencies (I blame James. A. Mitchener’s, The Source, read in my late teens, scary I agree).

During the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan when Bin Laden and the Taliban fled to the Tora Bora mountains, the virtually impenetrable nature of the terrain forced the U.S. military to use the largest bombs in their arsenal short of Nuclear weapons, ‘Daisy Cutters’ I think they might have been called. It is not a large stretch of the imagination to equate Roman and US military might, the Tori Bori Mountain strongholds with the fortress at Masada, the engineering feats of each invader/occupier (the bombs in Afghanistan and the ramp at Masada), the Taliban and the Sicarii, the preparedness of both hunted groups to commit suicide, and the calamities wrought by both on their individual countries.

The Passover and Beslan. My limited understanding about Passover is that is when the Jews were in slavery in Egypt they called upon their WMD namely G-d (note Ari, respect) to free them. G-d put Egypt through a series of escalating plagues until he, in his wisdom, decided to kill the first born of every Egyptian family. On that night the Jewish families smeared the blood of the lambs on the door so that G-d’s agents knew to spare those inside. Wasn’t Beslan also a case of ‘let my people go or I will kill all the children’? Both would have caused incalculable horror and despair on those families who the suffered loss of young ones. Both Jews and Chechens evoked the name of G-d as license for what occurred.

I will admit the capacity to target children for leverage is not solely the province of those religiously afflicted. I am very proud of many things about this country; however I regard Australia’s participation in the brutal and inhuman sanctions placed upon Iraq as its most shameful act during my lifetime. For a country with a similar population to Australia to lose at least 200,000 children due to the actions of the coalition forces, in an useless effort to find non-existent WMDs, must leave it with trauma that will take generations to heal.

I looked at your link which also included a story about personnel of the IDF being advised not to go abroad due to the risk of arrest under war crimes legislation in various countries. Is Israeli justice commensurate with that of other Western nations or is there a sliding scale? If so where would you say it lay?

I will admit to being a little taken aback by you asking me to stay calm. I’m not sure you are aware that the use of capitals usually indicates someone shouting, something I haven‘t done…yet. If you are then I would ask that you also do your best to stay calm.

Cameron