Holocaust Day resonates even deeper, now
A world history of genocide and a novel on the perils of perpetual victimhood
Welcome to This Week, Those Books, your rundown on books new and old that resonate with the week’s big news story.
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The Big Story:
- About 1% of Gaza’s population has been killed in the Israeli response to the brutal October 7 attacks by Hamas.
- Just weeks ago, the International Court of Justice in The Hague heard that Israel had shown “chilling” and “incontrovertible” intent to commit genocide in Gaza. Israel described the case, brought by South Africa, as ”malevolent” and “a libel”.
- South Africa alleges that public pronouncements by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are genocidal in nature.
- Britain’s Chief Rabbi has said that using the word “genocide” to describe Israel’s actions “is a moral inversion, which undermines the memory of the worst crimes in human history”.
- But Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, who is Jewish and whose family lost loved ones in the Holocaust, argued in a New Yorker essay that treating the Holocaust as a “singular event” makes it impossible to learn the lessons needed to prevent other genocides.
- Israeli writer Noa Tishby pushed back against genocide allegations against Israel. Palestinian journalist Afaf Al-Najjar alleged that Gaza shows the world’s failure to keep its 80-year pledge to prevent another Holocaust.
- The United Nations established January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005 with the aim of “education, in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide”.
- The date was chosen to mark the liberation in 1945 of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp.
- Article II of the 1948 Genocide Convention defines the crime as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”.
- The word ‘genocide’ was coined to describe the Holocaust – atrocities committed by the Nazis on Jews and others – which Stanford historian Norman Naimark calls “the most extreme case of genocide (but one that) needs to be compared with other episodes over time and space”.
- But international horror did not prevent subsequent genocides, not least Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda, 1994 and Bosnia, 1995.
This Week, Those Books:
- An expansive view of the history of mass killing.
- A novel on the tendency to hold on to victimhood.