“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. ”
― Joseph Goebbels
This week marks 68 years since the Allies’ liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. January 27th is commemorated as Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK.
The central message echoed in school textbooks, history lessons and memorial events is that depraved evil of such magnitude has to be understood, learned from, and never be allowed to re-occur. It is thus commemorated the world over, with the oft repeated sacred mantra of “Never Again.”
Shockingly, the Sunday times chose to commemorate this day by publishing the cartoon (left) dripping with malice and an exercise in lazy peddling of outright lies and libel.
The cartoon draws a completely inaccurate image, depicting a fictitious take on the reality in the West Bank and the purpose of Israel’s security fence. It conveys the implication that the fence is somehow responsible or born out of the deaths of Palestinian children. This is an egregious distortion of the facts and arguably just printed to court controversy, to generate publicity in the cheapest way imaginable, by using the atrocities of the Holocaust as a commercial tool.
For argument’s sake, it is thoroughly indisputable that the level of terrorism emanating from the West Bank dropped significantly as a result of the security fence and checkpoint system: from the Second Intifada, beginning in 2000, until the completion of the first segment of the fence in 2003, there were 73 suicide bombings that killed 293 Israelis and injured over 1,900; but since then, the number of terror deaths whose perpetrators originated from the West Bank has been estimated at around 45.
But all that is way beyond the point at hand.
To resolutely and confidently guarantee that such unchecked exercise of absolute unconditional evil, which facilitated the actions of morally bankrupt nations and allowed for the systemic cold-blooded murder of over six million Jews, requires one to educate oneself, and intimately grasp the root cause which enabled it to occur.
Political theorist Hannah Arendt, in an attempt to come to terms with the horrors of the Holocaust, expounded on her theory of the ‘’Banality of Evil’’ – theorizing that evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal. In other words, having a theory or action repeated often enough created an air of normality which side-lined and entirely discounted the moral implications.
This theory is not without criticism but touches on a factor which no doubt played a role in the atrocities of the Holocaust: the role of the media in disseminating propaganda, depicting Jews as conniving monsters hell bent on causing death and destruction; as a subhuman species and a cancer which needed removal. This message was spoon-fed and echoed all around and was demonstrated with the words of Josef Goebbles himself: “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned, that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
False imagery and narratives’ effects should not be discounted: over time they have a dramatic effect on channeling public discourse and opinions in a particular direction. Words really do matter. President Morsi of Egypt understands this, as evidenced by the recently released video where he is seen expressing the following sentiment: “Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue.”(10 January 2010)
I will not go so far as to draw parallels to the Der Stürmer but this sort of tacky journalism has tangible long lasting effects. This cartoon is both utter tripe and a great disservice to the greater public, to which The Sunday Times has been tasked with exercising the noble profession of journalism and informing the public of current affairs.
Giving them the benefit of doubt, the Holocaust is apparently a valid form of advertising currency for The Sunday Times. Or perhaps the Sunday Times has a systemic problem with odious policies which flirt with antisemitism.
The cartoon does not reference the Holocaust specifically; rather the cartoon echoes of traditional antisemitic imagery and presents an intensely lopsided representation of the conflict, which is lamentably sliding into mainstream discourse and radically lowering the bar of respectable journalistic behavior and responsibilities.
Shlomie Liberow is the StandwithUs UK Campus Director and student at Goldsmiths, University of London. A former StandwithUs Fellow and JSoc president – he has spent much time gaining an understanding on the nuances of this convoluted conflict including travelling to Geneva in May this past year as an EUJS ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). His articles have appeared in The Commentator, The JC, Ynet and The Times of Israel.