In Europe, Holocaust inversion is busy spreading beyond its original locus of infection and finding a home among intellectuals and activists, especially on the Left. Thankfully, the disease is still rather hard to find in America, where it festers in only a few dark places. Some of those places, regrettably, operate as institutions of higher learning, and in one of them—Columbia University—a number of professors, mainly instructors in Middle East studies, have distinguished themselves in the black art of defaming Israel as a Holocaust emulator.
Only a decade ago, Columbia was compelled to investigate departmental instructors who had been accused of intimidating their students with extreme anti-Israel diatribes. The recent war in Gaza has supplied the signal. The first is Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature.
Half a century of systematic maiming and murdering of another people has left its deep marks on the faces of these people, the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they handle objects, the way they greet each other, the way they look at the world. There is an endemic prevarication to this machinery, a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture. What are Israelis?
Who are Israelis? They are Israelis by virtue of what? By a shared and sustained murderous history—from Deir Yassin in to Gaza in Auschwitz as a metaphor is now Palestinian. Next up is Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history and the man who, having compiled the clearest record of classroom intimidation at the very time he was being considered for promotion to permanent faculty status, stood at the center of the last Columbia scandal.
I have never made such a reprehensible equation. By , after another Gaza flare-up, Massad no longer had any need for dissimulation. So great was the revulsion caused by this piece of Holocaust inversion that its publisher, Al Jazeera , pulled it for a time. I love Massad. And then there is Rashid Khalidi, holder of the Edward Said chair of modern Arab studies and a professor of a somewhat higher class.
Yet here he was, in a piece for the New Yorker , creeping up to the edge. It was true in Soweto and Belfast, and it is true in Gaza.
Soweto and Belfast? The Nazis did indeed starve the Warsaw ghetto, and famine killed thousands.
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Beyond these three cases , another Columbia-related episode is worth noting. A few years back, she, too, won a bruising tenure battle. But in her case, the outcome was never in doubt because unlike Massad she trod lightly. Much too smart to indulge in Holocaust inversion, Abu El-Haj hit upon an alternative in a recent contribution to the London Review of Books :.
Make them pay an unbearable price.
Kielce: The Post-Holocaust Pogrom That Poland Is Still Fighting Over
Then they will turn against their own regime. When Israel attacks hospitals in Gaza, when it wipes out extended families, when it mows down children running on a beach, it is engaged in a premeditated act.
But Dresden and Tokyo—why not? Rubenstein taught in religious studies at Florida State University from to and held the professorial chair. He then became president and professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport , where he served from to Rubenstein has also been a newspaper columnist for a Japanese newspaper and has written many books concerned with the Holocaust , theology , Jewish-Christian relations, ethics , and politics.
"Gaza = Auschwitz"
Rubenstein emerged in the s as a significant writer on the meaning and impact of the Holocaust for Judaism. His first book, After Auschwitz , explored radical theological frontiers in Jewish thought. Rubenstein argued that the experience of the Holocaust shattered the traditional Judaic concept of God, especially as the God of the covenant with Abraham , in which the God of Israel is the God of history. Rubenstein argued that Jews could no longer advocate the notion of an omnipotent God at work in history or espouse the election of Israel as the chosen people.
In the wake of the Holocaust, he believed that Jews have lost hope and there is no ultimate meaning to life.
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We have lost all hope, consolation and illusion. In After Auschwitz , Rubenstein argued that the covenant had died. He did not mean he was now an atheist , nor that religion had to be discarded as irrelevant. However, he believed not in a transcendent God, but in God as the ground of being:. Terms like "ground" and "source" stand in contrast to the terms used for the transcendent biblical God of history who is known as a supreme king, a father, a creator, a judge, a maker. When he creates the world, he does so as do males, producing something external to himself.
He remains essentially outside of and judges the creative processes he has initiated.
Michael L. Morgan, Beyond Auschwitz Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America - PhilPapers
As ground and source, God creates as does a mother, in and through her own very substance. As ground of being, God participates in all the joys and sorrows of the drama of creation which is, at the same time, the deepest expression of the divine life.
God's unchanging unitary life and that of the cosmos' ever-changing, dynamic multiplicity ultimately reflect a single unitary reality. Rubenstein explored what the nature and form of religious existence could possibly comprise after Auschwitz e. He suggested that perhaps the way forward was to choose some form of paganism. When his work was released in , it appeared at a time when a "death of God" movement was emerging in radical theological discussions among Protestant theologians such as Gabriel Vahanian , Paul Van Buren , William Hamilton , and Thomas J.
Among those Protestants, the discussions centred on modern secular unbelief, the collapse of the belief in any transcendent order to the universe, and their implications for Christianity. Theologians such as Altizer felt at the time that "as 'Death of God' theologians we have now been joined by a distinguished Jewish theologian, Dr Richard Rubenstein.
During the s, the "Death of God" movement achieved considerable notoriety and was featured as the cover story of the April 8, , edition of Time magazine. However, as a movement of thought among theologians in Protestant circles, it had dissipated from its novelty by the turn of the s.