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'Genocide as a Political Science'

November 21, 1988

It was probably inevitable that someone would link the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht to the current situation in the Middle East. But it is saddening to read this from the pen of Roth. As a former CMC student and current colleague at the Claremont Colleges, I am familiar with the contribution of Roth--a Christian trained in theology--to students' awareness of those tragic times, and with his sympathy for Israel.

It is thus doubly painful to see him lose sight of a fundamental truth: The Nazis murdered Jews simply because they were Jews. The crime was bred and nurtured by 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism, and it erupted with absolute finality in Christendom's highest cultural center--Germany. No combination of political exigencies could ever fully explain this genocide. This was a theological event, the final purification of Christendom from the absolute "other," the Jew.

Roth has now reduced this evil to a one-dimensional metaphor for the suffering of the Palestinians. History is rich with so-called analogies from which the amateur historian might wish to draw his "lessons": the French in Algiers, the British in India (and Palestine!), the Spaniards in South America, the U.S. and native Americans. The choice of Nazi Germany, especially on this sad anniversary of Kristallnacht , seems almost calculated to reduce Israel not only to the level of all nations, but to the level of the Jews' own persecutors.

The mere suggestion that Israel could act as Nazi Germany did carries frightening implications. It implies that gone up in the smoke stacks of Auschwitz were not only Jewish bodies, but the Jewish conscience as well. It implies that the remaining bodies that built a Jewish state have become morally "fallen," that is capable of the greatest evil which theology can conceive. So conscience now raises its head among those who have never found themselves compelled to fight, not even in self-defense. To paraphrase the charge against Ahab and Jezebel: one actor in Christendom--the Nazi--murdered our body. The good Christian--the thoughtful man on the sidelines--has inherited our conscience, and now teaches us the lessons of his own history with it.

ARIEL GLUCKLICH

Claremont

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