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February 5, 2020 8:18 am

Anti-Israel Professor Hijacks a Holocaust Conference

avatar by Moshe Phillips

Opinion

Memorial to Jewish children murdered by the Nazis, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, April 11, 2011. Photo: Avishai Teicher via Wikimedia Commons.

A radical professor who thinks America is hopelessly racist will preside over an upcoming Holocaust education conference that will seek to show “connections between racist ideology and policies in the US and Nazi Germany.”

The conference, which is scheduled to be held in North Carolina this May, is sponsored by the Illinois-based Holocaust Educational Foundation, which is a respected, mainstream organization. But the Foundation has put the event in the hands of professor Barry Trachtenberg, a harsh critic of Israel and Zionism, who is co-chairing the conference with colleagues. It’s obvious they intend to manipulate the event for political purposes.

One of those “connections between racist ideology and policies in the US and Nazi Germany” that Trachtenberg and his cohorts are focused on is comparing slavery in America to the Holocaust. In the conference description, they write that the event “will also explore how the specific history of the Holocaust helps us to particularize and compare the continued controversial impact and reception of Southern slavery and segregation on our public and private lives.”

Last year, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explicitly warned against exactly these kinds of irresponsible analogies. The Museum said that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary. … At a time when our country needs dialogue more than ever, it is especially dangerous to exploit the memory of the Holocaust as a rhetorical cudgel.”

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Perhaps the reason Trachtenberg can’t resist making such analogies is that he has such a harsh view of the US. In 2009, Trachtenberg signed a petition dismissing US anti-terror policies as “the so-called ‘war on terror.’”

Trachtenberg’s extremist view of America fits with his extreme hostility towards Israel. He has repeatedly compared Israeli policies to those of apartheid South Africa. He signed a 2009 petition describing Israel’s self-defense actions against Gaza rockets as “the mass destruction unleashed by the State of Israel against the people of Gaza.”

Last November, Trachtenberg spoke at an Appalachian State University event on what he called “the experience of Palestinian Arabs, who faced nearly wholesale ethnic cleansing with the founding of Israel.” Similarly, in 2013, he signed a public statement accusing Israel of “relentless ethnic cleansing.”

Trachtenberg has also repeatedly spoken at events sponsored by the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and signed many of its anti-Zionist petitions. In 2017, he signed a JVP letter under the heading “Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Council.”

That same year, Jewish Voice for Peace invited convicted terrorist Rasmeah Odeh, who murdered two Hebrew University students, to address its annual convention. I wonder how alumni of Hebrew University would feel about attending Trachtenberg’s upcoming conference in May, knowing that he associates with a group that champions a murderer of their fellow alums.

Trachtenberg also avidly supports anti-Israel boycotts. In 2013, he signed a public statement — organized by the official Palestinian BDS National Committee — calling for a worldwide boycott of a conference at Hebrew University. In 2014, Trachtenberg signed a petition urging the state of California to divest from all Israeli companies. In 2016, he signed a petition calling on the Modern Language Association to boycott all Israeli academic institutions.

In 2017, Trachtenberg testified before a US Congressional committee against legislation to combat antisemitism. He declared that reports about antisemitism on college campuses are exaggerated, and said he opposed the bill’s classification of comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany as antisemitic.

Trachtenberg is also deeply hostile to major American Jewish organizations. In the 2009 petition, he and his cohorts sneered that the only people who supported Israel’s actions against Gaza rockets were “the usual apologists for the Jewish state.” Writing last year in the pro-PLO Journal of Palestine Studies, Trachtenberg complained about what he said is “the current willingness of major Jewish organizations in the United States — such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center and leaders to overlook or dismiss white supremacy in the name of supporting Israel.”

No doubt, there are donors to the Holocaust Educational Foundation who have been associated, at one time or another, with the ADL, AIPAC, AJC, or the Wiesenthal Center. I wonder what they think of Trachtenberg’s outrageous verbal assault on these organizations. I also wonder why the Holocaust Educational Foundation put Trachtenberg on its own academic council. Either the Foundation didn’t bother to check out Trachtenberg before nominating him to its council — which would be bad enough — or it knew of his anti-Israel, pro-BDS advocacy and nominated him anyway.

By this time, however, Trachtenberg’s extremist activities have become so well known that the Foundation can no longer plead ignorance. It’s shocking that the Foundation is putting its upcoming conference in the hands of an extremist who promotes boycotts of all Israeli universities, and slanders major American Jewish organizations.

Equally appalling is that the Foundation is permitting Trachtenberg to use its good name to hold a conference which will seek to prove “connections” between America and Nazism. This is a grotesque and appalling manipulation of Holocaust history for political purposes, and it strikes at the heart of what the Holocaust Educational Foundation is supposed to promote

Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s US division and a candidate on the Herut slate in the 2020 World Zionist Congress’s US elections. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Herut’s website is https://herutna.org/.

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