Commentary Magazine


The Irony of “Never Again”

In his important post on the necessity of doing more than simply saying “Never Again,” Jonathan noted that Iran “ironically denies the Holocaust while plotting a new one.” But it is not ironic — it is rather part of three contradictory propositions that nevertheless reinforce each other.

Iran simultaneously denies the Holocaust, threatens a new one, and accuses Israel of being a Nazi regime. It denies what the Nazis did, announces plans to do it again, and accuses the prospective victims of being Nazis. Those propositions are crazy, but the more important point is they are parts of an integrated plan.

The plan involves, first, denying the historical legitimacy of Israel. In the view of many Muslims, Israel is simply a Holocaust guilt offering imposed by the West on blameless Arabs. It is a view unfortunately given credence by President Obama’s Cairo address, which mentioned the “tragic history” of the Jewish people as the justification for Israel — not the 3,000-year connection to the land, nor its central place in Jewish ritual for millennia, nor the fact that modern Zionism began in the 19th century, long before the Holocaust. But Iran denies the Holocaust to challenge even the “tragic history” as a basis for a Jewish state.

The second part of the plan is to announce that the goal is not a Palestinian state, but the elimination of the Jewish one — and to demonstrate that the announcement produces no penalty. Indeed the goal gains legitimacy from its repeated proclamation and the repeated failure of the West to respond. There is no UN resolution condemning Iran for threatening another member of the UN, no refusal to deal with a regime that is openly advocating a new Holocaust — only an outstretched hand, endlessly outstretched. It confirms Iran’s belief (and its argument to its allies) that the West will ultimately abandon the Jewish state, just as it abandoned the Jews.

The third prong is the denigration of Israel’s moral right to exist, accusing it of being equivalent to the most hated regime in history. It is an effort likewise assisted by the Cairo address, which equated the Nazi genocide with the Arab dislocation in 1948 — and thus lent credence to the Islamist belief that the situation of the Palestinian Arabs was comparable to genocide.

Iran undoubtedly finds it ironic that “Never Again” is everywhere repeated but nowhere acted upon, even in response to Iran’s explicit goal and its historical and moral slander in support of it. The problem with saying “Never Again” is that, as eloquently explained here, “there’s a risk that we might think we’ve actually done something.” It is an irony that may border on tragedy.