We learned yesterday that Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion (“XR”) apologised after his comments about the Holocaust sparked outrage.
I was curious to find out what it was that Hallam said that led to such indignation. German Green politician Volker Beck accused Mr Hallam on Twitter of "bringing the climate movement into disrepute." German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Nazi genocide was "uniquely inhumane" (can the German foreign minister provide a list of what he considers to have been ‘humane’ genocides?). Ullstein, Hallam’s German publisher announced it had stopped publication of Hallam’s book on climate change and that it was disassociating itself from his comments.
Judging by the scale of the histrionics I assumed that Hallam had broken every rule. He must have praised Hitler or perhaps justified or even denied the Holocaust all together. Apparently, he said nothing at all like that. In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, Hallam stated that the Holocaust was "just another fuckery in human history." The "fact of the matter,” he said, “is, millions of people have been killed in vicious circumstances on a regular basis throughout history." He concluded by observing that genocides have occurred repeatedly over the past 500 years and "in fact, you might say it is like a regular event".
At least on its face, his statements were factually correct, Hallam didn’t deny or diminish anyone’s suffering. Quite the opposite, he expressed a universal disgust with all forms of oppression and hatred.
What was Hallam’s crime? Apparently, that he spoke both authentically and ethically, and ignored the fact that this form of discourse is extinct within contemporary ‘Left’ and progressive circles.
XR Germany's Annemarie Botzki tweeted: "We distance ourselves from Roger Hallam's trivialising and relativising comments about the Holocaust." Hallam is being accused of ‘trivializing’ and ‘relativizing’ the holocaust simply by noting the clear and undeniable fact that history has witnessed more than one systematic destruction of one people by another.
The study of history benefits from a comparative approach. Our scholarly understanding of the past expands when we can see, for instance, the equivalence between the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the 1948 Palestinian Nakba. Our understanding of Zionism grows when we delve into the parallels between the national socialist aspirations of the early Labour Zionists and those of German National Socialism that surfaced later. Yet, within the domain of the Holocaust religion such a scholarly comparative approach is regarded as the ultimate heresy. To examine the Holodomor, the Boer War, Stalin’s crimes, Neocon global atrocities, or Israeli War Crimes alongside the Holocaust is perceived by some as the ultimate profanity as it ‘relativises’ that which ‘must’ extend beyond history and reason, namely ‘The Holocaust.’
For Jewish institutions, Holocaust: ‘Relativisation,’ ‘Trivialization’ and ‘Universalization’ are the ‘ultimate crimes’ as they tend to prevent the crystallization of the Holocaust as a unique chapter in human history. The attempt is made by these institutions to prevent the application of language that is ‘specific to the holocaust’ to events that are unrelated to it or to Jewish suffering in general.
We are stumbling upon two core elements at the heart of the Holocaust religion. One is, of course, the primacy of Jewish suffering. The other is the Orwellian attempt to dominate language, terminology, vocabulary and expressions by restricting the usage of certain words so the words themselves serve Jewish identitarian causes.
The great Israeli thinker Yeshayahu Leibowitz noticed as early as the 1970s that the Holocaust was morphing from an event in history into a dogmatic religion. It was he who coined the notion “Holocaust religion.” Leibowitz perceived that, although Jews believe in many different things, Judaism, Bolshevism, Human Rights, Zionism and Anti Zionism: all Jews believe in the Holocaust. A decade later in 1987, Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir expanded on this shift in Jewish consciousness and identification. In his paper On Sanctifying the Holocaust: An Anti-Theological Treatise, Ophir admitted that “a religious consciousness built around the Holocaust may become the central aspect of a new religion.”
Ophir listed the four commandments of the new religion:
1. “Thou shalt have no other holocaust.”
2. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or likeness.”
3. “Thou shalt not take the name in vain.”
4. “Remember the day of the Holocaust to keep it holy, in memory of the destruction of the Jews of Europe.”
Ophir’s commandments illuminate these two Judeo Centric core elements of the Holocaust religion. The primacy of Jewish Suffering (1, 2 and 4) and strict lingual restrictions (1,2 &3).
Orwell’s insights into left authoritarianism that made 1984 into a prophetic masterpiece together with Ophir’s thoughts provide us with the intellectual framework to understand both the Jewish and the Left’s attitude toward the Holocaust. The Left that, at least in the past, attempted to unite us in the name of a universal ethos is now at the forefront of the battle against each of its own core values: the ethical, the universal (equality) and, most important, freedom.
Noticeably, not a single Left politician or thinker stood up for Hallam and his expression of a genuine humanist and universalist outlook. This is tragic but not surprising. It can easily be explained by the concepts of ‘Athens’ and ‘Jerusalem.’ If Athens is the birthplace of philosophy and Jerusalem is the home for Torah and Mitzvoth, then Athens teaches us how to think while Jerusalem produces a set of directives as, for example, what ‘not to say.’ The Left’s call that was born of an Athenian instinct that was both dialectical and universal has generally been reduced into a Jerusalemite set of ‘commandments’ that are totally removed from truthfulness, authenticity or human nature.
It is this Jerusalemite authoritarian mode that is quintessential to contemporary Left politics and explains why Corbyn’s Labour has expelled its best members for truthful speech. Why is it that Corbyn himself never stood for Ken Livingstone and others who were telling the truth? This systematic failure of Left politics may explain why the promised revolution never materialized. It also explains why Hallam was stabbed in the back by his allies for telling the truth.
Truth is from Athens but the Left is from Jerusalem.