It’s a chilling concern that corporate media repeatedly get matters of Jewish life and identity wrong. What happened on “The View” Monday morning was a perfect capture of the absolute ignorance about the Holocaust of American non-Jews with captive audiences in major media.
In a panel segment, host Whoopi Goldberg began, “the Holocaust isn’t about race.” She said it four times: “It’s not about race.” When asked to explain what it was about, Goldberg responded: “It’s about man’s inhumanity to man.”
She continued, “These are two white groups of people.” This is the version of the Holocaust that Goldberg and her cohorts agree children should be taught. A butchered, ahistorical, Americanized, watered-down, downright incorrect version of the Holocaust, in which white people were being – I guess – unkind towards one another.
It reaches new depths of a pernicious desire to favor intersectionality over accepting Jews as a minority. Even worse, it’s an argument that gives modern-day attacks on Jews the green light.
As far back as September 1919, Adolf Hitler issued a statement in which he defined Jews as a race, specifically a “race-tuberculosis of the peoples.” His ideology urged a superior Aryan race, exclusive of Jews. That was by definition racist.
If race is a social construct, the Nazis believed in a hierarchy of races, in which they were superlative and the Jews were lesser. Not just lesser, the Jews were subhuman vermin.
Ignoring this inconvenient historical truth is in line with the current agenda of U.S. corporate media – a navel-gazing, arrogant, and U.S.-centric schedule that promotes that all global events must be interpreted through American racial tropes, often weaponized behind the mouthpieces of “people of color,” who are the gatekeepers of the definition of racism.
The question of whether Jews can experience racism is a question older than America itself, because the Jews preclude America and American race discourse by thousands of years. The answer, however, is yes. Jews can experience racism, and very much did during an industrialized attempt last century to eradicate us that led to the deaths of almost two-thirds of the world’s Jews.
Arguing that the Holocaust wasn’t about race is as jarring as arguing that the history of slavery in America wasn’t about race. For the latter, a presenter on “The View” would most definitely have lost her job. But the price for peddling serious misinformation about the Jews isn’t considered as severe a moral crime in this country, because many people assume the same: Jews can’t experience racism, Jews are the white guys, or worse – Jews proliferate white supremacy, Jews are the problem.
Jewish identity cannot be explained by binary American ideas about race. We are not Jewish because of our skin tone. We are Jewish because of our ethnicity and our religion. You can be ethnically Jewish and non-religious and still as Jewish as a person who wasn’t born Jewish but converted to the highest levels of orthodox observation. As far as our ethnicity and ancestry, Jews are indigenous to the Levant, hence our return to a homeland in the Middle East: Israel. See, it’s not black and white.
Ill-informed words sometimes provoke violence. And nonsense arguments like Goldberg’s lead to the very kernel of leftist antisemitism (in the form of antizionism), which claims Jews are white oppressors and that the Israel-Palestine conflict is between white settlers who stole the land of oppressed black and brown people.
If there was a list of the most treacherous libels that exist about Jews in the modern day, this is the grand lie that would top it. We saw it dominate media during the outbreak of a war between Israel and Hamas last May. The war led to a spike in antisemitic attacks in states all over the country, perpetrated by antisemites who weren’t attacking Zionists, but Jews.
Goldberg’s absurd comments come only a week after the internationally observed Holocaust Memorial Day. That’s a day set aside for non-Jews to contemplate the idea of “Never again.” Jews have their own calendar date to remember the memories of those who died; it’s called Yom HaShoah and occurs in the Hebrew calendar in the spring.
A subject of grave frustration for Jewish journalists and advocates every year is the way the Holocaust has been universalized. This increased de-Jewification of the Holocaust occurs every time another celebrity or media pundit recklessly compares something “bad” to the Holocaust, when it has no relation to the events masterminded by Nazi Germany. Whether it’s anti-vaxxers comparing mask mandates to Jews having to wear yellow stars, or PETA comparing farming to concentration camps, these comparisons are trivializing, dehumanizing, and dangerous.
With fewer survivors around to tell their stories, it’s imperative that those with responsibility and platform speak on this unambiguously anti-Jewish event with expertise. If they cannot do that, they should not speak at all.
The Holocaust was not, as Goldberg put it, about “man’s inhumanity to man.” It was about man’s genocide of Jews. It was not a universal lesson, although it has use as such. The Holocaust was a uniquely antisemitic atrocity. While, yes, it wound up taking the lives of those in other communities, it began as an exercise in racial-ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people.
Watching a panel on “The View” containing no Jews discuss an event that is carried by most every living Jew alive today, and do so with absolutely no knowledge but with shocking confidence and entitlement, shouldn’t be explained away as a blip. This is a sign of a far bigger problem.