The ridicule of former U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter by members of the Jewish community over his recent book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” should be expected, but is it deserved? In her Jan. 25 article, “Jimmy Carter has a Jewish problem,” Deborah Lipstadt criticizes Carter for making only “two fleeting references to the Holocaust” in his book. Yes, the Holocaust was one of the most horrific events ever. And, yes, people should be outraged by it. But the fact that the word Holocaust is capitalized only in reference to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews suggests that people in the West already embrace these two notions.
In America and much of Europe, the Holocaust is enshrined and never escapes media attention. Visit the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and you may come away with a better idea of what Carter has run into. It offers an impression that either it is only Jewish people who have ever been truly exterminated or that the Jewish Holocaust is the only one worth mentioning, notwithstanding Cambodia, Rwanda and scores of other holocausts.
As Lipstadt suggests, Israel personifies the Holocaust for Jews. The problem is: criticize Israel and you hit a nerve that causes keepers of the Holocaust to react from the bottom-line belief that either you are for Israel or you are for the Holocaust. This problem is not Carter’s. It’s not that the story of the Holocaust should not be told. Rather it is that all Holocausts, and all Apartheids, should be emblazoned in upper case — even when this brings to light the atrocities that one historically persecuted people visits upon another, as in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
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