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Professor Gilbert Achcar: Never Again

The lessons from Auschwitz must be understood from a radically anti-nationalistic, anti-racialist and anti-ethnocentric perspective.

For a person of Jewish descent, there are two ways of drawing lessons from the Nazi genocide of the European Jews: one leads to saying “Never again to us, the Jews”; the other “Never again” tout court.

The former conclusion stems from a narrow ethnic outlook, reversing the Nazi perspective by taking the side of “the Jews” against the rest of the world. In both cases, “the Jews” are singled out as a particular group of people with extraordinary features: whereas the Nazis saw them as the embodiment of evil to the point of trying to annihilate them, the holders of the Jewish ethnocentric perspective believe that the defence of “Jewish” interests – which like all brands of collective interest, whether national or class or whatever, is a hotly disputed notion, with rare occasional unanimity on what it could mean – is a value superseding all others. In the name of this defence, they end up denying the humanity of the victims of Israel, the purported “State of the Jews”, just as most oppressors throughout history have denied their victims’ humanity.

The latter conclusion – “Never again” tout court – is the only true repudiation of the Nazi Weltanschauung; not its symmetric reversal, but a radical rejection of all its underlying assumptions. Continue reading

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