Academic Pens Open Letter to Canada’s Trudeau; Decries Jewish Invisibility
“As a historian who knows that a political gaffe is a politician caught telling the truth, I believe you were being sincere,” wrote Gil Troy in an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, published in the Canadian Jewish News on Friday. “That’s what scares me.”
Troy, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal and visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, was referring to the statement that Trudeau issued on International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month, in which he condemned genocide without mentioning Jews. Responding to Trudeau’s subsequent dismay at the barrage of criticism his universalizing of the Nazi atrocities unleashed, Troy penned his letter to explain that the upset the Canadian PM caused had “nothing to do with Harper-hankering” — that the outrage was not a result of anger on the part of conservative political opponents despondent at the defeat of predecessor Stephen Harper.
No, argued Troy, this issue is sui generis; it stands by itself.
“The key to understanding the Holocaust and to empathizing with those of us who felt excluded when you didn’t single the Jews out for sympathy,” wrote Troy, “is realizing that the Nazis singled us out for slaughter. Yes, they killed others, targeting dissidents, Communists and gays. But hating Jews, killing Jews, and what they in their ugly, techno-sterile language called ‘exterminating’ Jews was central to their ideology, to their mission. It was ‘The war against the Jews,’ not just an unjust war. It wasn’t any kind of evil. It was a specific evil, with a particular pathology and focus.”
To clarify, Troy said, “Unfortunately, we Jews are raised with the added burden of recognizing this obsession, because we have been targeted by it – and are still targeted by it… You don’t invent Auschwitz, you don’t kill three out of four European Jews, you don’t murder six million people and you don’t destroy a 1,200-year-old Euro-Jewish civilization without being supremely focused. The war against us was such a Nazi priority that even as Germany was losing the war, the Nazis stepped up the pace of the murder, diverting resources to killing our people, not protecting their own.”
This is why, explained Troy, “[W]e work hard to ensure that no one misses the point. And we are enraged because anti-Semitism has returned with a vengeance, masquerading as ‘just’ ‘anti-Zionism.'”
“This visibility-invisibility issue is playing out to our disadvantage again. Shortly after your statement, Israeli first responders killed three heavily armed Palestinian terrorists in mid-attack outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. The terrorists killed Hadar Cohen, a sweet 19-year-old who had just been drafted two months earlier to serve her country. Yet CBS News proclaimed (in a headline that was amended after complaints): ‘Three Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on.'”
Thus, he told Trudeau, “Forgive us our trauma. It’s not ‘daily violence’ that both sides provoke equally. It’s not Palestinians being killed as part of some routine. It’s Palestinian terrorists hunting Jews, being raised to hate Jews – and succeeding.”
Troy concluded: “So, no, we won’t be polite. We will be outraged. And we will pound away until you reassure us that you see how central anti-Semitism was then and is now in the current conflict. Please reassure freedom-lovers worldwide that while positioning Canada to be a constructive force for peace, you won’t succumb to the moral laziness of a pox-on-both-your houses evenhandedness, failing to see who is guiltiest for perpetuating this conflict.”