Auckland lawyer Juliet Moses writes in The Spectator on Whoopi Goldberg’s attempts to universalize the Holocaust
Juliet Moses – Sometimes there is a TV moment that reveals or causes a fissure in the fabric of our society – whether that be political, cultural, ideological or otherwise. Think the Frost/Nixon interviews, the broadcast of Roots, and of course Scott and Charlene’s wedding on Neighbours, and the resulting watercooler conversations (a passé term from a bygone era when we congregated to chat with our colleagues).
Last week, Whoopi Goldberg’s comments on The View about a news item ignited a controversy that itself became news. Her comments came in a discussion about the removal of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust novel Maus, by Tennessee’s McMinn County Board of Education from its eighth-grade English curriculum.
Goldberg first noted, in replying to Joy Behar’s statement that ‘they don’t like history that makes white people look bad’ that ‘Well, this is white people doing it to white people’. She then claimed that the Holocaust was ‘not about race’, repeating this over the objections of her co-hosts. She declared that it was simply about ‘man’s inhumanity to man’.
The Goldberg Stage Name
There is no publicly known evidence to justify Goldberg’s adoption of her stage surname or to support her claims that she is Jewish, and she clearly is no Holocaust scholar, but one doesn’t have to be either to know that the Holocaust was specifically about race. Aryanism, a racial supremacy ideology, was at the heart of Nazism. While the Nazis murdered Slavs, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, the disabled and dissidents, they believed the primary threat to Aryans’ racial purity was the Jewish people, who they considered to have biological characteristics. Their extermination was necessary for the purification and salvation of Aryans.
Goldberg has apologised and shown some reflection, although in attempting to clarify and explain her comments she has arguably exacerbated the situation; later that day on Stephen Colbert’s show, she said that the Holocaust was about white people ‘fighting each other’. This is an astonishing description, implying that there is an equivalence between the Nazis and their victims who, while mounting some remarkable resistance, most famously in the Warsaw ghetto, were overwhelmingly murdered through being burned in synagogues, shot in ditches, stricken with typhus, starved and gassed.
Goldberg has been suspended from The View for two weeks. Pleasingly, I’m not aware of any Jewish commentators or leaders who agree with her suspension or called for her cancellation – most have accepted that she was acting in good faith – instead seeing this as an opportunity for much-needed education and dialogue.
Tip of the Iceberg
Because the fact is that this is much bigger than one person. Goldberg is just the tip of the iceberg. That iceberg is a morass of Holocaust universalism, critical race theory and misconceptions about the nature of the Jewish people and ‘antisemitism’ (notably, the term coined in 1879 by the German devotee of race science, Wilhelm Marr, to give Jew-hatred a more scientific name and include non-practising Jews).
There is an ongoing debate about how to memorialise the Holocaust, within the Jewish community, museums, academics and beyond. By universalising it, the hope is that it becomes an accessible and teachable event, something that every person can learn from.
But Holocaust educator Michael Gray has written that ‘the ubiquity of the Holocaust as a cultural reference has aided its trivialisation and de-Judaisation’. The published Diary of Anne Frank, for example, had numerous references to Judaism removed, such as those describing Yom Kippur, the family singing Hebrew songs on Chanukah and Anne’s sister Margot’s Zionism.
Author Thomas Pegelow Kaplan has talked of how ‘a singular and unprecedented event identified by its own name, Holocaust, has been strikingly univeralised to function as a metahistorical moral standard’.
For white supremacists like the Nazis, Jews will never be white, even if they have pale skin, and will always be imposters trying to ingratiate themselves with white society.Juliet Moses
The problem, according to Dr Catherine Chatterley, a professor of history and antisemitism scholar, is that ‘Holocaust education has not produced a corresponding concern about, or awareness of, antisemitism’. In fact, I would go so far as to posit that those who most readily universalise the Holocaust and apply it as an analogy for the pandemic response, US Southern border controls, or Israel’s existence and operation as the nation state and refuge of the Jewish people, often have the least sympathy for or understanding of those people.
The genesis of the Jews as a people is in the Levant, where Israel is today, in the second millennium BC. Around the first millennium BC, they founded a sovereign state there. Under successive occupations, they were forced into exile throughout the diaspora, but continued their practices, preserved their heritage and coalescence as a people, yearning for the return to their ancestral homeland, while, when permitted, seeking to integrate and improve their condition in the societies they lived in.
This has led to diaspora Jews being ‘Shrodinger’s whites’ – white or non-white depending on the politics of the observer, as the Jewish comedian David Baddiel brilliantly articulates.
For white supremacists like the Nazis, Jews will never be white, even if they have pale skin, and will always be imposters trying to ingratiate themselves with white society. For the far left and those who subscribe to critical race theory, Jews are, despite their Levantine origins, white (at least insofar as they are not ‘people of colour’), and often ‘peak white’, the most powerful and privileged people, because of course, they are all wealthy and wield outsized control over everything that those critical race theorists despise.
And because critical race theory does not conceive of any form of racism apart from ‘white on colour’, Jews cannot possibly be victims of racism. Notably, since 2020 the Anti-Defamation League’s own definition of racism was ‘the marginalisation and/or oppression of people of colour based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges White people’. It has now hastily changed it.
As far as there is any consensus among Jews (there rarely is), I suspect many see themselves as I do – just Jews. A people who cannot neatly be categorised and whose identity continues to evolve from ancient times, as does the hatred that stalks us.
A people who exemplify the absurdity and artificiality of the racial construct, the intellectual bankruptcy of critical race theory and the myopia that transforms the Holocaust into a moral universalism while minimising the real and increasing dangers, the iceberg those of us see on the horizon, away from which we are trying to frantically steer the ship.
Source: The Spectator
Juliet Moses is an Auckland lawyer and a partner at TGT Legal, a boutique trust and private client law firm based in Auckland. She specialises in trusts, personal asset planning and superannuation and is a regular presenter of seminars and author of articles on issues arising in those areas. She may be contacted through LinkedIn.