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16 December 2010
We read of the blacklisting of your magazine with a bitter sympathy. It is particularly ironic since the United Nations is spending $120,000,000 to: "... remind the world of the lessons to be learnt from the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide."
While your magazine has many thought provoking articles on the pernicious effects of advertising on our society, a cardinal point in the blacklisting campaign against Adbusters is that in this instance history itself has become a publicity stunt.
This blacklisting raises interesting questions about the role of history in society. History is a story we believe is true. Some history achieves the status of a political icon. Some history achieves a sacred status. Governments know this and manipulate history for their own benefit. As George Santayana noted – "History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."
Your article on the Gaza Strip is what is called "Holocaust Inversion" by people who consider the orthodox Holocaust story as "sacred." People like Robert S Wistrich in his paper "Holocaust Denial and Inversion," and Esther Webman with her "Stealing the Holocaust from the Jews?" who spoke at the November HETI International Conference on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, partially funded by the United Nations Outreach Programme.
"Never Again," the article you published by Saeed David Mohammad and that precipitated this censorship issue, is a thoughtful piece that respects Holocaust history. There is no hate expressed in his article. The problem arises when it is viewed by those who view Holocaust history as "sacred," not to be questioned in any way. In short, Mr. Mohammad committed a "trespass" on the sacred history of others, a copyright violation if you will.
Revisionists have found that the first casualty of war is Truth. We have found that much of the history we are taught today about WWII was originally influenced by Soviet, British and American wartime propaganda which exaggerated and exploited the real tragedies of real people for propaganda purposes serving the State. This concerns not just Jews but Slavs, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses and, in some versions, Gays.
The point here is not to justify past crimes on the part of anyone, but to understand that special interests, including the State, manipulate the historical record to further their own interests. The manipulation of historical icons has gotten us into very deep trouble. George Bush's campaign against the "Axis of Evil" is only one recent example.
We have a choice. We can exploit what has become a rather cheap array of historical icons to judge the actions of others, or we can put our trust in a free exchange of ideas to reach an understanding of the historical situation in which we find ourselves.
History should be as accurate and as fair as humans can make it. At the same time, if there is one lesson in particular to be learned from the horrors of World War II, it is that our sympathies should be with the poor and the oppressed, and that we should struggle against censorship and oppression – realizing that censorship is itself oppression. In this we think that Adbusters got it right, and that the Canadian Jewish Committee got it very wrong.
Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust