Anti-Zionist at heart

July 28, 2000

Norman Finkelstein is right to claim that there exists a thriving Holocaust industry ("Shaking down the Swiss", THES, July 21).

A few years ago, when I was teaching in the United States, a colleague sought to bring Elie Weisel to the campus. Mr Weisel agreed to speak on the duty of survivors to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust - but only for what was then his fee of, as I recall, $10,000. Still, many other academic topics have become industries, and they rarely involve the attempted extermination of a people.

The Holocaust deserves to be commemorated, however much its commemoration is exploited. Finkelstein's argument that the Holocaust is used to justify the state of Israel is the standard canard of anti-Zionist propaganda.

Zionism antedates the Holocaust and justifies itself on grounds other than the Holocaust. The Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum does not tie the Holocaust to Zionism.

Finkelstein's linkage of the Holocaust industry to the 1967 six-day war is debatable. Commemoration of the Holocaust is linked at least as tightly to the recent American emphasis on diversity rather than on assimilation and to the confidence of American Jews in their place in US life.

Finally, ever since 1945, Jews worldwide have vainly been seeking to reclaim money deposited in Swiss banks. That it has taken the threats of class-action lawsuits and of economic boycotts to prod banks that financed the Nazis to give back money deposited by desperate Jews more than 50 years ago says more about Swiss greed than about Jewish greed.

Robert Segal

Professor of religious studies Lancaster University

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