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What Is a ‘Holocaust Doubter’?

Norman Finkelstein and Israel Shamir are not deniers; I chose this term instead

Will Yakowicz
May 18, 2011
Norman Finkelstein.(Wikipedia)
Norman Finkelstein.(Wikipedia)

Several commenters have called me out for describing Norman Finkelstein, in my articles on Israel Shamir, as a “Holocaust doubter.” I’m glad they noticed. The word choice was admittedly controversial but also conscious. I was trying to underscore the connections among people with deeply problematic yet disparate views of the Holocaust who do not go so far as to argue it never occurred, as well as the loose community they are helping form.

I have read, studied, and met Finkelstein. As many have pointed out, he—the child of Holocaust survivors—does not deny that the Holocaust happened, and I did not say he did. Nevertheless, he actively refuses to face it head-on and intentionally perverts the truth into conspiracy theories. Refusing to comment on the the reality of gas chambers or death tolls (one way or another, he says, these arguments aren’t relevant), he rejects the conventional understanding of the Holocaust as a horrific and unparalleled act of genocide that provoked justified shame and revulsion, and instead sees “the Holocaust” as a deliberate propaganda ploy created by Jews to serve a variety of selfish and immoral ends. Given his loathsome argument that “Jewish elites” deliberately “manufactured” a big outrage “industry” about the Holocaust—which in his view is simply one of many 20th-century genocides—in order to extort money and gain influence in the West and to crush all dissent and criticism of Israel, it seems entirely fair to lump Finkelstein in with Shamir and others who prefer to understand the Holocaust primarily as a narrative ploy to extend Jewish influence in the world.

While on tour for his book The Holocaust Industry, Finkelstein said, “I remain faithful to the horrendous suffering of my late parents, yet, the Nazi Holocaust has long ceased to be a source of moral or historical enlightenment. It has become a straight-out extortion racket. A handful of American Jews have effectively hijacked the Nazi Holocaust to blackmail Europe.” This quote alone is just cause to lump Finkelstein into the same category as Israel Shamir, which is that of Holocaust doubter. (I preferred “doubter” to “skeptic” because “skeptic” is generally a positive trait.) Shamir and Finkelstein may in fact have different definitions of the Holocaust, but they are certainly under the same umbrella.

His Jewish Problem [Tablet Magazine]

Will Yakowicz is a writer based in New York.