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March 14, 2003 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-14

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PETA'S Holocaust Blunder

or some Jewish educators,
the quest to universalize the
lessons of the Holocaust rep-
resents the desire that the
crimes committed against the Jewish
people will never be repeated any-
where against anyone again.
That's a noble goal. But sadly, histo-
ry has shown that hope to be a forlorn
one, as genocidal crimes in Africa and
even Europe have proven.
Such efforts run the danger of
diminishing the specifically Jewish
tragedy of the Holocaust. Debates have
raged among scholars over the question
of just how far you can go to draw the
analogy between anything that smacks
of prejudice and mass murder.
The push to ensure that this tragic
history is not forgotten has produced
one especially unfortunate dividend: the
popularization of Holocaust metaphors.
Rather than reserving references to
the murder of 6 million Jews to only
the most terrible of crimes, the fashion
of using inappropriate and even egre-
gious references to the Holocaust is
growing. It is an unhappy fact of mod-
em American discourse that anything


Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor

of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.
He can be reached via e-mail at

that someone opposes can be called a
"Holocaust" and anyone whose politics
we don't like can be called a "Nazi."
Examples of this proliferation of
Holocaust metaphors are everywhere.
Any terrible event can now be called a
"Holocaust." One especially stupid
example occurred in an episode of the
television sci-fi series The X Files a few
years ago. In it, the main characters were
investigating strange happenings around
a rural lake. When told that local frogs
were dying in large numbers from an
unknown cause, one of the heroic feder-
al agents on the show portentously
intoned that this was "a frog Holocaust."
Laugh at that if you like, but this
month we received confirmation that
this sort of idiocy has crossed over
from popular culture to the fashion-
able political counter-culture.
In fact, the latest entry into the com-
petition for most outrageous use of the
Holocaust to make a point is an ad cam-
paign run by the People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals. In it, PETA
makes a direct comparison between the
slaughter of animals for food and the
murder of Jews in the Holocaust, as well
as comparing the treatment of Jews in
ghettos and Nazi murder camps with
factory farms.
Opposing theabuse of animals for
any reason is an honorable cause that
engages the sympathy of decent people

everywhere. Such sentiments
also find. strong support within
Jewish tradition, which regards
such practices as both an ethi-
cal and religious transgression.
Animal rights groups are
also on solid ground when
they protest needless experi-
mentation on animals by sci-
entists. Hopefully advances in
science and the technologies
available to test drugs will
soon make such abhorrent
practices obsolete.

abandoning rational discourse.
The Nazis and their rigor-
ously vegetarian lunatic leader
once denounced Jews as being
subhumans who deserved the
same treatment as lower life
Today, that same argument
JONATHAN is being used by PETA. In
their case, they wish to elevate
all animals to human status.
Commentary But by seizing on the example
of the extermination of the
Jews, they have blundered,
whether on purpose or unwittingly,
into dangerous territory.
Extremist Absurdity
We should cherish and protect ani-
That said, to jump from that position
mals, but there is no moral equiva-
to one that makes a direct analogy
lence between eating meat and the
between the effort to exterminate the
mass murder of human beings. By
Jewish people and raising animals for
asserting such an equivalence, PETA
meat is an absurdity that only an
has deeply offended the remaining sur-
extremist could accept. It is one thing
vivors of the Holocaust, as well as all
to believe, as vegetarians and vegans
thinking persons, both Jewish and
do, that the consumption of animal
non-Jewish alike.
We can only hope that the denunci-
products cannot be justified. It is quite
ations that PETA receives for this vile
another to assert, as Princeton
University "philosopher" Peter Singer
attempt to hijack the Holocaust will
once wrote, that "a rat is a pig is a dog serve as a warning for all those who do
not fear to invoke the greatest of
is a boy."
To maintain no distinctions between human crimes to denounce far lesser
animals raised for food and the delib-
This is one misused Holocaust
erate murder of six million Jews is
metaphor that should not be allowed
more than merely ridiculous. It is a
to pass without condemnation. ❑
sign that the animal rights world is

Iraq Backlash Begins

Washington, D.C.
A su.S. troops mass for an
invasion of Iraq that could
come in a matter of days,
the American Jewish com-
munity is caught in a dangerous para-
Increasingly opponents of the war,
including some politicians, pundits
and protestors, blame Jews and Jewish
influence for propelling the nation
into what they predict will be a cata-
strophic war. That view was crystal-
lized last week by a prominent liberal
member of Congress who had a sim-
ple explanation for the war: It's the
Jews' fault.
In reality, the Jewish community
itself is just as divided as the nation
itself. The community's turmoil is
intensified by government warnings
that Jews and Jewish institutions are

James D. Besser is a Washington-based




correspondent. His e-mail address is


likely targets of the next terror wave
and uncertainty about what the war
will mean for Israel. Will it mean the
removal of a feared enemy — or a •
devastating attack by Iraqi terror
Last week, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran,
D-Va., who represents a suburban
Washington, D.C., district, threw raw
gasoline on the fires of polarization in
a session with constituents.
"If it were not for the strong sup-
port of the Jewish community for this
war with Iraq we would not be doing
this," he said, according to the
Connection newspaper. "The leaders of
the Jewish community are influential
enough that they could change the
direction of where this is going and I
think they should."
That led six prominent northern
Virginia rabbis to demand his resigna-
tion, and produced a tidal wave of
indignation from national and local
Jewish groups.
The intensity of that reaction

deeply divided, with many
expressing views ranging from
doubts about the administra-
tion's plans to outright opposi-
Most Jewish leaders, facing
divided constituencies, have
stayed out of the war debate. -
Efforts to get umbrella groups
the Conference of
of Major American
Moran's Ignorance
endorse the war option have
Moran, who has had brushes
with the Jewish community
Critics on the left base much of
before, missed some key facts.
their finger pointing on the influence
American Jews are just like their
of Jewish hardliners in the Bush
non-Jewish neighbors: deeply divided
administration, but their list of villains
about the prospect of war. A major
is short, consisting mostly of three sec-
American Jewish Committee survey
ond-tier officials: Deputy Defense
last month showed that Jews are
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,
slightly less likely to support the Bush
Undersecretary Douglas Feith and
war policies than are Americans in
Pentagon adviser Richard Perle.
All three have argued for regime
Rabbis across the country, especially
changes in the region that could ulti-
in the Reform and Conservative
mately help Israel. But the Jewish
majority, report that congregants are

reflects a growing worry for
Jewish leaders: If the Iraq
invasion turns sour, forces that
are in play today could pro-
duce a fierce wave of recrimi-
nations against a Jewish com-
munity that is unfairly depict-
ed as a major force in promot-
ing the war option.

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