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The Universalist Holocaust

There are two basic human responses to an assault. I will protect myself or I will make the world a better place. The first deals with the risk of an attack. The second with your feelings about the world. The first leaves you better able to cope with an attack. The second makes you feel better about the world that you live in.

The Jewish response to the Holocaust fell into these two categories. Never Again and Teach Tolerance. And the two responses were segmented by population.

Never Again became the credo of Israel and Teach Tolerance became the credo of the Western Diaspora.

There were many Israelis who believed in teaching tolerance and many Western Jews who believed in self-defense, but for the most part the responses were structural because the divide between Nationalists and Universalists predated the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was a transformative event, but only to a degree, the responses to it came out of earlier debates that had been going on for several generations. Before the Holocaust, the pogroms had led to the same fork in the road between a collective struggle for a better world and national self-defense. The current debates about Israel revisit that old argument.

To the Nationalists, the Holocaust was not an unexpected event. Nationalist leaders like Jabotinsky had warned that it was coming. To the Universalists however, it was an inexplicable event because it challenged the entire progressive understanding of history as a march to enlightenment. Violent bigotry was a symptom of reactionary backward thinking, not something that modern countries would engage in. There might be anti-semitism in Berlin, but there wouldn't be mass murder. That was for places like Czarist Russia, but not for the enlightened Soviet Russia or Weimar Germany.

The Holocaust dissolved that mirage of a better world. It was a mugging in broad daylight on the biggest street of the biggest city in the world. Its message was that the world had not changed and that human beings had not magically become better people because Berlin had a subway and phone calls could be made across the Atlantic.

The Holocaust did not heal the divide between the Universalists and the Nationalists; it deepened it. The Universalists still insisted that a better world was coming and that the Holocaust made it more urgent for us to work toward it, while the Nationalists saw the world as a cycle of civilizations that had to be survived, with no respite, except for the religious who awaited a final transformation of the world and everything in it.

Israel was the issue, but the real issue was what a Jewish State symbolized; a turning away from the great dream of the Brotherhood of Man for another reactionary ethno-religious state. To many liberals, Israel's existence is coded with the dangerous message that Jews are no longer committed to the great humanitarian revolution and the dream of a better world. That they would rather cling to a narrow identity and a narrow territory than melt into a borderless brotherhood of man.

Zionism led to a schism on the left, a raw angry split slowly being won by the Anti-Zionist camp which has been plugging away at the same bad universalist ideas that Jewish liberals occasionally drag out of the trash can and display like some new discovery. The Zionist left tried to bridge the gap through bad economics and wishful thinking. The Peace Process was its last gasp.

Western Jewish liberals have always been vaguely ashamed of Israel. They used to understand the need for it and the desire for it in their gut, even as their ideological minds struggled against it. As time passed and the dust and ashes settled, that unspoken gut feeling faded, because things you do not say and cannot rationally defend are hard to pass down to future generations.

The Holocaust museums were built, the books were written and tours conducted into Anne Frank's attic, but the understanding of what these things meant was not passed down. The only lesson was to make the world a better place by teaching everyone to be tolerant so that history would not repeat itself. As if any amount of courses and slides on tolerance could stop history from repeating itself.

There are nice Jewish boys and girls who have read Anne Frank's diary, visited Auschwitz and come away anti-semities. Of course they don't of course call themselves that. They call themselves human rights activists, they board flotillas, they boycott Israeli products, smash Jewish store windows, hug terrorists and rationalize suicide bombers. And it's not entirely their fault. The lessons that they drew from their education is that the underdog is always right, that people in uniforms are bad and that you always have to stand up for minorities.

That is the Holocaust in its universalized form. Never Again made the Holocaust a teachable moment for Jews. Teach Tolerance made it a teachable moment for all mankind. The Nationalist and the Universalist draw two opposite lessons from the Holocaust. The Nationalists focus on resistance while the Universalists focus on persecution. The Nationalist aspires to be a ghetto fighter while the Universalist aspires to be a good German.

The Universalist version of the Holocaust is a lesson on how we must all aspire to be good Germans. Its natural lesson is that our governments, at least the non-progressive ones, are embryonic Third Reichs which are only one flag-waving leader away from opening concentration camps. The only way to stop another Holocaust is to destroy nationalism, patriotism and the modern state.

And so there are plenty of young Jewish and non-Jewish boys and girls who smash Jewish store windows and throw stones at Jewish soldiers out of a desire to be good Germans. If they manage to destroy Israel and all its Jews, then they'll be the best Germans of them all.

This Universalist doctrine does not mention the English boys, who were being good Germans before the time when those words meant anything, by gathering at anti-war rallies. It does not mention the leftist intellectuals who insisted that the Allies were no better than the Nazis. People might draw sordid conclusions about their modern peers who insist that America is no better than Al-Qaeda or that Israel is no better than Hamas.

The Holocaust did not divert most Jewish Universalists from their course, no more than prior events did. For every Herzl who realized that the Universalist vision was bunk there were many others who went on preaching the same tired mantras of a new dawn for the human race. And they are still holding on to the podium and denouncing Zionism as an obstacle to the progress of mankind.

The debate over Israel is only one of many such fights between Universalists and Nationalists of every creed and from every nation. It is a struggle between those who believe that nations, religions and cultures have innate worth, and those who believe that they are obstacles to the great jello bowl of togetherness.

Even the good Universalists don't really understand the Holocaust because they don't believe that they are living within history, but at some tail end of history before a new era of global awareness. They call left-wing anti-semitism the "New Anti-Semitism". The Holocaust was also a new event to them, rather than part of the continuity of Jewish history which had seen massacres in every age.

To them there is no Pharaoh, Haman, Chmelnitsky, no sack of Jerusalem, poisoned wells and bodies burning in the public square. Everything is new to them and they are always being surprised by all the old things that keep showing up.They are forever being surprised by events because they have no context. They are certain each time that the world has become a better place, and there is no need for a Jewish State. History to them is always ending, and yet it never seems to end.

Israel did not emerge out of the Holocaust, it emerged out of a history in which the Holocaust was only another link in a chain of events. To say otherwise is to reject history, which is a thing the Universalists habitually do. The only way for them to continue repeating their folly is to kill history, so that everything is always new and so that no one learns anything from the past except to repeat their homilies.

The Nazi Holocaust failed, but the Universalist Holocaust is still ongoing. Every time a leftist gets up to denounce Israel and to look forward to the day when it disappears, the Universalist Holocaust grinds on. And they have no shortage of Jewish assistants who are eager to complete the task, believing that a humanitarian utopia waits on the other side of the gas chamber door.

The Jewish Universalists lost faith in G-d, but they did not lose faith in humanity. They still believe with all their hearts that if they strum the guitar loud enough and sing, "Imagine", that a better world will appear behind that door. Disbelieving in history, they have forgotten that the last time that door was opened in Russia, there was barbed wire and bitter cold on the other side.

Jewish Nationalists understood what was coming last time. They understand what is coming this time. Yet no matter how many times they are proven right, the beautiful dreamers refuse to listen to the history which proves them wrong. They're still waiting for the European Union, the United Nations, for the dead hand of history to let go and the better world to be born out of the ashes of the old.

We all die, sooner or later. It is what we leave behind that ventures into the uncertain future that gives us life. History is the road map that charts where the past lives that made ours possible have gone and shows us where the lives that we make possible may go. The Universalist Holocaust would burn those maps and kill our future for their better world. .


  1. Daniel,

    Both the Left and the Islamists agree Israel needs to go because it stands in the way of the brotherhood of man.

    Where they disagree is over who should this brotherhood. The Jews are a foil that denies them what they both aspire to.

    All utopias in human history have been built on Jewish blood. Jews instinctively understand this all too well and they quietly refuse the role those who run the universal brotherhood have assigned to them.

    The brotherhood of mankind is not waiting around the corner to be born. Israel's very existence is a repudiation of the notion that dissolving the particularities that constitute the essence of mankind will in the end unite it.

    On the contrary, its the particularities of mankind, embodied in Zionism and in the existence of the Jewish State that are the basis of its true salvation.

  2. There is a third group: The rational skeptics of Zionism (as opposed to the leftist and extreme religious ideological ones) said and still say that a tiny state of our own, still highly dependent on the favor of one superpower, will never be a match for any large anti-Semitic nation. The headlines in the Israeli newspapers about "Never Again" are so ludicrous. Could Israel, however well-armed, have defeated Nazi Germany?

    Of course Universalism is a fantasy, but so is trust in a secular state.

    Ephraim from Yerushalayim (who sometimes manages to catch a little sleep.)

  3. Anonymous8/4/13

    The issue you describe is symptomatic of a cultural disease, a syphllis of the soul, that afflicts Western culture. It springs from the concept of history as being teleological, in that it is moving towards a preassigned goal, the perfection of eternity. This concept permeates western culture, and as such it breaks an earlier measure that tied history to the cycle of the seasons, or to the span of a human life.

    It is delusional because it has made the ideal the enemy of the good. What you decry as a Jewish phenomenon is broader in scope and profoundly more deadly in its implications. It is a 'Christian heresy' that denies Christ as a redeemer, and the concept of the soul. We should not forget that the persecution of Christian believers parallels the Jewish pogroms, and continues to this day in the sustained effort to drive Christian thought and practice from both the public sphere.

    1. Anonymous9/4/13

      I would beg to differ on the issue of the universalist teleological view.
      History is understood by them to be circular , repeating itself till they come along and apply discipline to society to attain the dream.
      The historic judeo-christian world view is that history is linear, that it is coming to a predetermined end. Unfortunately an apocalyptic eschatology is not as prevalent as it once was. The church is losing the war of words.

  4. Anonymous8/4/13

    That the "Universalist" ideal is a pipe dream is easy to demonstrate. If they were correct, the world would have learned from the Shoah. The killing feilds of Cambodia, slaughter in Rawanda, gasing of Kurds in Iraq, all give lie to the Universalist message. Indeed, the Kurds are a clear example of what happens to a people without a nation of their own. Am Yisrael Chai!

  5. The Universalists have clearly gotten away with this in American History as well. They look at recent years of action in the Middle East and use it to blame the US for the fact that Islam hates us.

    They have completely wiped from history not one, but two wars of vital imporance. Ask any AP High School student, and you would be luck y to find 1 out of 10 that have ever even heard about the Barbary Wars. The First Wars our nation was forced to fight after winning our independence. When then Ambassador Thomas Jefferson asked the Dey Ambassador of Tripoli why they attack American ships, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that Islam "was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise."

    Knowing history shows that like the Shoah, 9/11 was just one link in a very long chain.

  6. Anonymous8/4/13

    "Jabotinsky had warned that it was coming"

    So do people like David Horowitz. I know this video is from 2010 but I just came across this and the way this UC student says "for it" is chilling.


    Self preservation and defense or should it be offense, are the only options.


  7. Going along to get along only results in the "go alongers" being destroyed for lack of sticking to their principles.
    The "avoid violence at all costs" crowd have forgotten the ultimate cost of complete pacifism in the face of evil.

    "On the efficacy of passive resistance in the face of the collectivist beast. . .
    Had the Japanese got as far as India, Gandhi's theories of "passive resistance" would have floated down the Ganges River with his bayoneted, beheaded carcass." -- Mike Vanderboegh.

    There is NO virtue in self-sacrifice, particularly on the altar of political correctness.

  8. There has been way too much tolerance lately. I practice intolerance. That doesn't mean those you disagree with need to be harmed (unless they are trying to harm you) but they need to confronted. The way tolerance is applied is that only the universalist ideas are tolerated. Call a spade a spade, call a muslim terrorist a muslim terrorist, call an illegal invader and illegal invader, and call a "soft" compliant Jew an idiot. Those who practice tolerance lose. The Nazi's didn't exterminate Jews because of the lack of tolerance training, they did it because they found it advantageous to exterminate Jews. Diversity equals perversity, tolerance equals defeat, and understanding evil equals evil.

  9. Anonymous8/4/13

    Humans can be characterized as predators and prey. The Bible and Daniel point out and describe the particular predatory traits of empires (the national characteristics of people that live within those nations).
    Israel and the US are the only two nations that have been safe havens for human prey. The US may no longer be.

  10. Anonymous8/4/13

    fsy said...

    Trusting in oneself, one's fellows, IDF training and leadership and being true to Zionist ideals--even unto death--makes a people very, very powerful. And if that fails, nuclear weapons work wonders. You seem to ignore this hard fact: head to head, toe to toe, yes, Israel can defeat a major power. Do you ignore this so that your argument remains relevant and true and you dont have to examine the world (and Israel) as it is? And, BTW, what major power is prepared to re-arm and attack Israel? Israels Achiles heel is falling to the death by a thousand cuts that Islam has used to defeat so many in the past. Its other weakness is are psuedo-intellectuals who live in bubbles and ignore facts. And keep this in mind: Israel keeps getting stronger economically, demographically and its millitary modernization program, started in the 70's continues relentlessly.

  11. Hi Daniel:

    I am using this article as my Non-Council submission at the Watcher's Council.

    The Political Commentator

  12. Universalism vs. Nationalism have nothing to do with what you suppose they do.

    A person could be a nationalist ideologically (which means he believes that each tribe has it's own subjective morality) but fail to recognize a threat because of disagreement over factual matters.

    Conversely a person could recognize that moral laws are universal, and yet still recognize the facts of a threat.

    Imagine a truth table, with universal vs. subjective on one axis, and recognize facts or not recognize facts on the other axis.

    The principles of justice are a subset of morality, and are true for all natural persons, in all places, and for all time. That is the true meaning of "universalism" and has nothing to do with the image you imagine.

  13. Thank you so much for this post, Daniel. I've been struggling with little bits of this idea for a long time. I kind of snuck up on the idea in this post (http://www.bookwormroom.com/2008/03/16/judged-not-lest-you-be-judged/ ) but couldn't quite latch on to the important point about Israel's existence being a repudiation of the "kumbayya" world view -- perhaps because I'm the child of parents who fought for Israel's independence, but was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I embody the schism.

  14. it began splitting when the kibbutzim did


  15. fsy said...

    Trusting in oneself, one's fellows, IDF training and leadership and being true to Zionist ideals--even unto death--makes a people very, very powerful. And if that fails, nuclear weapons work wonders. You seem to ignore this hard fact: head to head, toe to toe, yes, Israel can defeat a major power. Do you ignore this so that your argument remains relevant and true and you dont have to examine the world (and Israel) as it is? And, BTW, what major power is prepared to re-arm and attack Israel? Israels Achiles heel is falling to the death by a thousand cuts that Islam has used to defeat so many in the past. Its other weakness is are psuedo-intellectuals who live in bubbles and ignore facts. And keep this in mind: Israel keeps getting stronger economically, demographically and its millitary modernization program, started in the 70's continues relentlessly.

    I'm not sure if you read what I wrote or just released a barrage of emotions. I don't see that I presented any 'argument' and I certainly didn't present a plan of action. I merely pointed out that there are those who question (today somewhat retroactively) the wisdom of putting our reliance in what is still a small and deeply dependent secular state.

  16. Anonymous9/4/13

    Sorry. The link I posted for the UC/David Horowitz encounter with this Muslim student should be



    No doubt about it. Self-preservation and offensive measures are needed to prevent another Holocaust. None at all.

    I hope to G-d some US agency is monitoring these Muslim Student Associations. This exchange...you don't have to read between the lines at all. David Horowitz is clear as a bell.

    So is the Muslim student.

  17. Anonymous14/4/13

    Why seek contradictions where there isn't any?
    Indeed, Never Again!
    and indeed, Teach Tollerance!
    Indeed - Us, as the Jewish nation, should defend ourselves and not let this kind of eve
    The two complete each other. They need each other for a full response to the horrible event of the holocaust.
    Us, as the Jewish nation, will always defend ourselves and never let such a thing happen again. And us, as human beings, will make sure no society - not ours and not another one - will get to the place Nazi Germany got.
    I think this is the common view among most Israeli Jews (like myself).

  18. It seems to me that the story of the Holocaust is skewed toward the Nationalist view...it must never happen again to US.
    I am not anti- Israel, I think it is too easy to dismiss it and forget what gave need for a Jewish homeland.
    I am a daughter 'of the violence' and I think on these issues of the holocaust a lot. I find this post gives a lot to me in terms of understanding.
    It is difficult however to want to choose between the two narratives. Each has it's own necessity.
    I hope it is OK to post a link to a few of my posts, I think of the first ( history repeat ) and the 2 on Dachau in particular as I read yours.

  19. Nationalists are more scientific than Unversalists (who tend toward the mystical).


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