Commentary Magazine


Mearsheimer’s Holocaust “Problem”

In trying to “solve” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, policymakers and analysts typically seek to address some of the following problems: Palestinian terrorism, Israeli settlement-building, contested sovereignty over Jerusalem, and the plight of Palestinian refugees.  But after twenty years or so of failed peace-making attempts, University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer has finally identified the real barrier to Israeli-Palestinian peace: Jews’ incessant talk about the Holocaust.

Granted, Mearsheimer didn’t arrive at this conclusion all by himself.  Never one to do the dirty work of original research (note the number of pro-Israel lobbyists he interviewed for his infamous book – zero), Mearsheimer is merely parroting the arguments of Knesset-Speaker-turned-post-Zionist Avraham Burg, whose new book is titled The Holocaust is Over.  Mearsheimer uses Burg’s work to advance his own “instrumentalist” claim: that supporters of Israel “use” the Holocaust to “fend off criticism and to allow Israel to continue committing crimes against the Palestinians.”  In short, remembering the Holocaust is – in and of itself – the problem.

If this argument sounds remotely familiar, perhaps you’ve been listening to the rantings of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who similarly claims that Zionists have played up the Holocaust to win international sympathy for Israel.  But at least Ahmadinejad has a logical – though hardly subtle – “solution” for this “problem” of Holocaust memory: he has invested substantial diplomatic resources into flat-out denying that the Holocaust ever happened.

Mearsheimer, on the other hand, offers this completely bizarre policy proposal: “solve” the “problem” of Holocaust memory by ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank -

… the best way to rescue Israel from its plight is not simply to get beyond the Holocaust, but to end the Occupation. Then, the need to talk incessantly about the Holocaust will be greatly reduced and Israel will be a much healthier and secure country. Sadly, there is no end in sight to the Occupation, and thus we are likely to hear more, not less, about the Holocaust in years ahead.

The extent of Mearsheimer’s illogic is incredible: he seems to think that the Israeli occupation causes discussion of the Holocaust.  If we take this absurd argument at face value, Mearsheimer actually provides a reason to support the Israeli occupation (!): as the international community continually fails to respond to genocides worldwide, something that causes us to “hear more” about the Holocaust is probably a good thing.

Thankfully, the State Department doesn’t listen to John Mearsheimer.  This isn’t because it’s controlled by Jews part of the Israeli lobby – rather, it’s because Mearsheimer has a long history of giving poor policy analysis (see his 1990 prediction that Germany and the Soviet Union would battle for control over post-Cold War eastern Europe).  In turn, expect the State Department to continue promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace and Holocaust education simultaneously.