Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

We discuss the joint declaration of the Prime Ministers of Israel and Poland, mostly absolving Poles of responsibility for the murder of Polish Jews during WWII, and why the historians of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Research Center think it is a disgrace. Should Israel’s Prime Minister be signing agreements about what’s true and false in Jewish History?

This is a segment from The “Don’t Know Much About History” Edition.


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One comment on “Pole Position

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    Fascism holds that the State is the unique or primary voice of the People. Liberal democracy rather asserts that holding offices in a State is a consequence of political competition therein; that whatever the People is, it changes over time, often by governmental actions after elections; so at best the State is a quite temporary voice of its People. Liberal democracies cannot cordon off thought, for to do so effectively muzzles what the People might otherwise become; this is why rights are inseparable from the concept. The sole exceptions to this are minors, who are not full political citizens in any case, and war, wherein indeed even liberal democracies take on quite fascist tendencies as war necessity. Many things in wartime America were fascistic, from Japanese American internment to ration coupons for eggs. A liberal democracy is best known when it relinquishes such war power; fascism, rather, sees ever war or its preparation.

    So what exactly does this mean for the joint Polish/Israeli PM declaration? Not much if not followed by criminal sanctions within their States. The declaration acts as a political, not constitutional, object within its States until criminalization. Congress and Ronald Reagan decried Japanese American camps. That is all fine, but it holds no constitutional force; only SCOTUS can do the latter, this well understood at the time of that resolution and enabling law (granting minor reparation to survivors). The problem in both Israel and Poland is that their legislatures are moving toward asserted monopoly of constitutional implementation. Since the PMs are the leaders of the ruling coalitions, their declaration seems to have more force than it should, coming close to telling people how they must publicly think. I am no longer surprised Israel is like this; one can argue that it survived for a remarkably long time as a liberal democracy under averse constant population war readiness when not at war. But Poland, not under such stress, reminds that Fascism relies on economic distress among its lower or elite excluded classes to capture control. I think neither Poland nor Israel unique; there is no unique racial manifestation at all. The US has exhibited trends similar to both countries in its own history, and Trump clearly mouths similarities to statements of leaders in both countries.

    There is a general slouching toward a new, ostensibly democratic, elected fascism, with apologies to Bork. All this State representative talk over what civil society should or should not say or think about WW II and the Holocaust is just another slouched step. Much more alarming should be the implicit disdain for social and historical science that promulgating this declaration suggests. As with climate change, the State is increasingly trying to define what reality was and is. And that is fascistic–which is why William F. Buckley Jr found no difference between full Fascism and Soviet Marxism as applied.

    I am not Jewish. I can only hope my statement herein is not seen as an affront.

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