In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Iran’s president, Ibrahim Raisi, said, “There are some signs that [the Holocaust] happened,” but the “historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians,” to verify that it actually happened. Israeli media and politicians were incensed by those words. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called on UN Chief Antonio Guterres “to deny that denier a world stage to spread antisemitism and hatred. The UN will reach a new low if they give the Butcher of Tehran a platform.” However, besides Israeli media and politicians, hardly anyone mentioned or even noticed Raisi’s words. It is not that they did not know; they simply do not care, or tacitly agree with him.
On June 5, 1940, seven months before the Nazis decided to carry out the plan for the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” namely to obliterate the Jewish people, the great 20th century kabbalist and thinker Baal HaSulam published the first issue of a new paper titled The Nation. His intention was to unite the Jewish people as a means to thwart the Nazi persecution. He wrote that the paper “is a ‘being’ that was born in dire straits, through hard and dreadful labor pains, from amidst the venom of hatred that had struck the nations of the world to obliterate us from the face of the Earth, the destruction of millions of our brothers, and they are prepared to do more.” Sadly, the first issue was also the last. Not only did the Jews decline unity, some of them went to the British authorities who had the mandate over the country at the time, and told them that Baal HaSulam had intended to undermine their government through communist propaganda. Naturally, the British shut down the paper and threatened that they would jail Baal HaSulam if he attempted to continue publishing it.
Baal HaSulam wrote The Nation two years after the Evian Conference, which convened in July 1938 in France in order to find a solution to the Jews who were stranded in Germany and Austria. The results of the conference, however, were dismal. Thirty-one of the thirty-two countries that participated declined to take in Jewish refugees, and the only one that agreed was the tiny Dominican Republic, to which the Jews, at the time, were not keen on going. Four months after the Evian Conference, the Kristallnacht pogrom took place in Germany and Austria, and matters quickly deteriorated from there.
Baal HaSulam, who saw where matters were headed, had no qualms as to the outcome of the persecutions. “Their sadistic inclination is insatiable,” he wrote, “and the calamity is twofold, for we cannot delude ourselves that all this is but a passing, transitory phenomenon, as with our past experiences in history, that if a nation erupts on us, we find a substitute in another. Rather, now things are very different. Not only are we simultaneously attacked from all directions, but even the most developed nations have locked their doors before us without any sentiment of mercy or compassion, and in such a ruthless manner that is unprecedented in the whole of human history, even in the most barbaric times.”
Now there is a precedent; the Holocaust did happen; but we are still not doing what we should to prevent it from recurring. The present situation is not very far from where we stood in 1938 after Evian. If another conference were to take place today, would any country decide differently from its decision then? Most likely not.
Even back in 1940, when he wrote the paper, and The Final Solution had not been activated, it was clear to Baal HaSulam that our only hope was unity. He stated that it was clear “that the enormous effort that the rugged road ahead requires of us mandates unity that is as solid and as hard as steel, from all parts of the nation, without exception. If we do not come out with united ranks toward the mighty forces that are standing in our way to harm us, we will find that our hope is doomed in advance.” Yet, just as it is happening today, even faced with disaster, the Jews refused to unite. “And after all that,” he wrote, “each person and party sits and meticulously guards its own possessions without any concessions.
And under no circumstances can they, or more correctly want to reach national unity, as this perilous time for all of us requires. Thus, we are immersed in indifference as though nothing had happened.”
Even worse, now that the Holocaust had happened and we know what humankind can come to, and even though it is clearly evident that the world is heading there once more, we are still refusing to unite. We still cannot see that the only hope to avoid another calamity is through internal unity. We prefer to bond and socialize with our enemies, who swear to annihilate us, than with our own people. Our enemies do not like us any better because of it, while we are being weakened by division.
Unless we change our hearts toward each other and begin to unite, nothing will change in reality, Holocaust deniers will proliferate, their venomous message will spread worldwide, and a new chapter will be written in the pain-filled annals of our people.
However, we must remember: This chapter will not be written because of the nations’ hatred for us, but because of our hab tred for each other, which fuels their hatred and stirs them into action.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during an interview with CBS in Tehran, ahead of his visit to New York to attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly UNGA 77 Iran s President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during an interview with CBS in Tehran, ahead of his visit to New York to attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly UNGA 77 on September 19, 2022. Photo by Iranian presidency via Reuters
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