Sunday, April 7, 2013

Yom HaShoah and The Question of Memory: Whose memory matters?

image is from here
In response to visiting the U.S. [Nazi] Holocaust Memorial Museum, white Western Jewish feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote, The Unremembered: Searching for Women at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
When atrocity happens to women, men often don't know about it even while men do what it is men don't remember. When I remember what happened to the Jews of Europe in the early to middle part of the last century, I wonder how it can be that U.S. white Jews with class privilege can now so easily overlook the contemporary genocide Indigenous people in North America and beyond. I know how it can be. We say "we didn't know", the same excuse used by white gentile Germans. Utter this phrase to Jews of European descent with regard to how the Nazi Holocaust (HaShoah) could occur, to people who lost family in WWII in concentration camps, and you'll likely be met with an expression of exasperation and anger. Appropriately. When I attempt to bring the topic of white's genocide against Native Americans, I am met with a look of disbelief or incomprehension. What kind of genocide do you mean?

The kind that results in the organised, systematic destruction of a people, I might say. The kind that causes the dissolution of culture, sickness, and mass death. Is the presence of genocide only to be measured against the particularly heinous methods used by Nazis in Europe? If there are no gas chambers and ovens, but there is virulent colonialism and racism, is a genocide not occurring? 
I won't get too far into what the Israeli military is doing to Palestinian people, not because I think it unworthy of attention, but because my Jewishness is not connected to Israel. I have a homeland called New York City. Israeli Jews are not, directly, my people. I have no personal emotional or political connection to them. My people are white U.S. Americans, and U.S. Jews of every color. As a white U.S. Jew, I do have blood on my hands to the extent that the U.S. actively supports racist, murderous apartheid in Israel and the region. I oppose the oppression and destruction of Muslim Palestinians by Israeli Jews. And the ethnic and religious divides there are not so sharp as one might believe if one only consumes U.S. media. Muslims and Palestinians live in Israel. Israeli Jews and Muslims live in Palestine. Generally, though, I am far too ignorant about the particulars of the history there to have much of use to say that could be considered informed.

I haven't even read Dworkin's book, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation. I have read a review of it by Veronica A. Ouma (*here*), but some of the assertions about Dworkin's political views are inaccurate, such as stating she supported or advocated female supremacy. She most certainly, and explicitly, did not. Proof of that is here:

Biological Superiority:

The World's Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea
Two days from now marks the eight anniversary of Andrea's unexpected death on 9 April 2005. I miss her voice in my world. She spoke against inhumanity in so many forms. There are few people who show such literary commitment to justice and liberation for women. I remember her. I remember those six million Jews destroyed in Europe from 1935-45. And the other five million killed during that time, in that place, who were not Jewish. I remember, on the 19th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide, the 800,000 Tutsis killed by Hutu extremists. I remember Indigenous Americans exterminated on this land and those who are being destroyed currently. On this day, Yom HaShoah, I remember that past and this present.