A Reply to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Facebook and Twitter have announced that they will ban Holocaust denial from their platforms. In a forthcoming book, Cancel Culture, Academic Freedom, and Me, Norman Finkelstein argues that Holocaust denial should be taught in university and preferably by a Holocaust denier. Here’s an excerpt from his manuscript.
It would make a mockery of truth and academic freedom (it is said) if a university granted Holocaust deniers a platform. But, to begin with, it’s not obvious what exactly is being denied. Does the Nazi holocaust denote the extermination of European Jewry or all categories of people systematically put to and slated for death? If only Jews, then why? If the criterion is quantitative—fully 5-6 million Jews perished—why then does the Nazi holocaust enjoy a privileged status, such that it can’t be called into question?
Some 30 million Russians were killed during World War II, yet no red flags preempt free-wheeling debate of this lethal destruction. Further, if the singularity of the Nazi holocaust and the point at issue resides in the number killed, it’s hard to figure why a taboo would be placed on Holocaust denial. Isn’t the sensible thing simply to present the technical evidence for the widely accepted 5-6 million figure? But maybe it’s the qualitative criterion of how that distinguishes the Nazi extermination: that is, the industrial-style/factory-like/assembly-line process culminating in the gas chambers.
However, only half of those Jews who died were killed in death camps,1 while Raul Hilberg, who homed in on the “destruction process” in his monumental study, nonetheless brackets the Nazi holocaust with the Rwandan genocide (“History had repeated itself”), although the latter was executed utilizing the most primitive of weapons.2 Still, if the point of contention is the technique, why not then just let the evidence of gas chambers speak for itself? If the intended effect of the taboo on Holocaust denial is to suppress it, the actual effect is to arouse suspicion: why are deniers being muzzled if the evidence incontrovertibly belies their claims? Indeed, the taboo can boomerang in more ways than one.