Recently a longtime United Methodist official, lamenting that Israel’s Independence Day obscured the Palestinian “Nakba” or catastrophe, urged boycotting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. until the Palestinians have their own Holocaust museum.
Here’s the quote from Janet Lahr Lewis, “Advocacy Coordinator for the Middle East” at United Methodism’s General Board of Global Ministries in New York, and “Peace with Justice Associate” at the church’s General Board of Church and Society in Washington, D.C., in an article originally appearing in but now seemingly removed from the online weekly newsletter of the latter agency:
Don’t participate in Holocaust Remembrance Day without participating in Al Nakba Remembrance Day. Don’t visit a Holocaust museum until there is one built to remember the other holocausts in the world: the on-going Palestinian holocaust, the Rwandan, the Native American, the Cambodian, the Armenian… You could be waiting a long time!
How nice. Lewis also accuses Israel of having “gone so far as to destroy archaeological artifacts in an effort to wipe out evidence of non-Jewish cultures, except Roman, throughout history in the region.” She also claims that “Israelis of conscience” are quitting Israel, now controlled by an “extremist government” that’s creating “a new Exodus.” Mocking the Exodus story, a defining narrative of the ancient Hebrews, is another nice touch.
But Lewis’s boycott of the Holocaust Museum, and suggestion of “on-going Palestinian holocaust,” is of course far worse. Hitler’s mass murder of 6 million European Jews is unique in the annals of human horrors. Stalin and Mao likely killed more, and the Armenian and Cambodian genocides were appalling, the Rwandan genocide also, plus the Sudanese regime’s continuing homicides, not to mention at least half a dozen other similar crimes by governments over the last century.
But no sustained massacre in history was conducted across years with such deliberation and cold, mechanized efficiency, by a regime elected by the informed voters of an ostensibly civilized nation, as was the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. It began with boycotts of Jewish businesses and expulsions of Jews from public life, escalated to expropriation of property and mass incarceration, continued towards mass shootings, suffocation by carbon dioxide in mobile vans, then finalized with daily gassing by the tens of thousands in death camps, where the bodies were delivered of gold teeth and hair, then were incinerated, filling the guilty land with the stench of burning human flesh.
What Israeli policies towards Palestinians merit the term “holocaust” much less rank with Hitler’s relentless death machine? Is it the security fence against Palestinian suicide bombers? Is it the occasional demolition of Palestinian homes suspected to belong to terrorists? Is it the security checkpoints? Is it the purchase of Palestinian land by Jewish settlers?
Can the term “holocaust” apply to the Palestinians killed in the recent Gaza war, when Israel reacted against Hamas rockets? Or Palestinians killed during intifadas orchestrated by Yasir Arafat as a negotiating tool when offers of a Palestinian state were insufficient for his political purposes?
Maybe the Methodist “missionary” and “peace with justice” advocate will explain what she means by “ongoing Palestinian Holocaust” in her next column. Except the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society has evidently deleted her last “holocaust” column, whether from shame or prudence. This Capitol Hill agency routinely demonizes Israel and for years has been trying to persuade its denomination to divest from Israel. But apparently it’s not ready to embrace openly a call to boycott the Holocaust Museum
Removing an absurd and disgusting column without public comment is not sufficient. This agency that represents United Methodism’s political witness to Congress should apologize. Its staff and board members should conduct a group visit to the nearby Holocaust Museum to be reminded why the Nazi murders of the Jews has special ranking in human depravity. And it, along with the United Methodist missions agency, should discontinue Lewis’s employment, to remove any doubt that her execrable views represent the denomination, and to demonstrate that the denomination aspires to some level of minimal moral seriousness. Ideally, this termination of employment would occur before her scheduled speech to a June 6 Methodist gathering in Des Moines, the title of which is: “Occupation: What It Is, What We Can Do about It, and Why We Should Care.”
Finally, hopefully, maybe Lewis’s unvarnished holocaust candor will ultimately provoke reflection by United Methodists and other Mainline/oldline Protestants as to why their officials and agencies have for several decades been so unremittingly hostile to Israel as the Jewish homeland, while scandalously silent about the real genocides that have occurred globally.
This ongoing, sour attitude towards the Jewish homeland, unequalled in negativity towards any other country or people, surely has a troubling spiritual explanation, which ought to send genuinely Christian people repentantly to their prayer closets in search of forgiveness and divine counsel.