Article | Denialism of October 7 as a Hamas weapon

March 13th, 2024

Kfar Aza kibbutz after Hamas attack on October 7, 2023.

Article by Rabbi Alan Silverstein, Ph.D. MERCAZ Olami, President

Webster’s dictionary defines “denialism” as “the practice of denying the existence, truth, or validity of something despite proof or strong evidence that it is real, true, or valid.”

Ever since testimony about the Nazi death camps spread, antisemites have employed Holocaust denialism of Nazi guilt. The deniers assert that Jews brought antisemitism upon themselves claiming that Jews allegedly had only themselves to blame. “Revisionists” insist that the deaths of Jews during World War II were due to treasonous behavior against the states in which they resided! Gas chambers, plans of genocide, Einsatzgruppen murders, and mass graves were, the deniers claim, “propaganda,” “fabrications.”

It was prescient during the liberation of the death camps in 1945 to anticipate Shoah denial. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of US troops in World War II, insisted that the liberation of the camps be recorded as evidence. “I visited every nook and cranny of the camp,” he said, “because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at firsthand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that ‘the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.’” Thus, at the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum, the outside inscription reads: “This is a history that must be told and retold, time and again.”

In discussing the 2016 film “Denial,” which depicts Deborah Lipstadt’s London trial against Holocaust denier David Irving, she said: “This is not just a Holocaust film. That would have been big enough. But it has…a much bigger message in that this is about truth and lies. Not truth and opinion…. If you have an opinion that’s rooted in a lie, that’s falsehood, an untruth…. [Such claims] “are completely false, unproven, no evidence – but they get traction.”

A combination of historical ignorance and denialism have taken a toll in Holocaust memory. Recent polling data indicate that only half of American young adults are “certain” that the Shoah ever took place. Two out of five of these “uncertain” folks actually assert that the facts of a Nazi genocide are “untrue.” Widespread denial gives encouragement to continue the assault on Holocaust truth.

Denialism also has been utilized by the Palestinian national movement in delegitimizing Zionist historical claims. Many social media influencers post that Jews have no historical connection to the land of our ancestors. They deny millennia of unbroken Jewish settlement. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s doctoral dissertation at Moscow University documented Holocaust denial. Abbas’s academic exercise also led him to deny the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the city that has historically played a pivotal role in Israeli and Zionist identity for millennia.

Abbas’s denial of Judaism’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem surfaced during the Oslo Peace Process negotiations in the summer of 2000. Abbas told President Bill Clinton that Jewry’s claims of the ancient Jewish Temple were fallacious. “They claim that 2,000 years ago they had a temple. I challenge the claim that this is so….” He claimed that “not a single stone” in all the Israeli archaeology proved the Temple was there. President Clinton was shocked and angry. He is a religious Christian, well-versed in the Christian biblical accounts of Jesus in the Temple. He recognized the cynical objectives of Temple denialism.

Like Holocaust denial’s impact, Temple/Jerusalem denial has had an impact in expunging historical truth. People have come to believe that Israel’s military unification of Jerusalem – the Old City and the more “modern” area – in 1967 was an abrupt break with the past. Allegedly, Jerusalem had been an overwhelmingly Arab Muslim city for a long time until Jews forced their way onto age-old Islamic turf.

Yet as early as 1850, Jews re-emerged as Jerusalem’s largest group. For example, in May 1948, prior to Israel’s War of Independence, unified Jerusalem’s population of 160,000 consisted of 20,000 Christians, 40,000 Arabs, and 100,000 Jews. It was the Jordanian army’s 1948 invasion that expelled thousands of Jews from “east Jerusalem,” notably the “Jewish Quarter.” In 1967, the IDF reunified the city. They transferred Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy sites to their respective religious authorities. Not only had a Jewish Temple existed in ancient times, the entire Temple Mount remained sacred to Judaism thereafter.

The motivation behind Abbas’s Temple denial had a larger goal. It was intended as a linchpin to the denial of Jewish historical ties to any part of Eretz Yisrael. The PA strategy was clarified by US Ambassador Dore Gold: “The Palestinian Authority leaders have observed that most of the assertions they have made about Israel in recent years – like comparing it to apartheid South Africa – eventually get accepted without question or criticism. They have every reason to hope that the denial of the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem [and to the rest of the Land of Israel] will gain supporters worldwide.”

In the wake of Holocaust denial and Temple denial, October 7 denial predictably reared its head. This is true even though Hamas terrorists filmed and broadcast their Nazi-like slaughter. Along with Gaza civilians, they celebrated the evidence of such atrocities as beheadings, violent rapes, body dismemberments, and burning people alive.

ADL has taken note of October 7 denial statements by anti-Zionists: “Some claim the events of October 7 never took place or that Israel was the one largely responsible for the massacre. Others suggest that acts of rape did not take place at all or that Israel fabricated evidence against Hamas” in order to justify the “genocidal” Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip.

Musician Roger Waters posits that the October 7 event was a “false flag operation” executed by Israel yet made to appear as though it was done by Hamas. Survey data affirms that “the vast majority [of Palestinians] denies that Hamas has committed atrocities against Israeli civilians.” Jordan’s Queen Rania (a Palestinian) calls into question whether Hamas butchered any Israeli children. Lebanon’s labor minister praised Hamas’s “ethics” “in dealing with Israeli prisoners.”

Alarmingly, a December 13 survey taken by Dr. Irwin Mansdorf for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs indicated that antisemitic denialism of October 7 poses a threat to historical memory. Hamas’s denial and distortion of the events of October 7 are being accepted by many Americans as “fact.”

The survey found:

24% believe that the reports of sexual assaults against Israeli women by Hamas are exaggerated and do not conform to reality.

21% agree that Israelis “use” the Holocaust to gain world sympathy.

22% claim that Hamas’s missile attacks mainly targeted military and not civilian targets.

Close to 24% agree that reports of kidnapped Israelis being held by Hamas are not entirely true.

Over 34% felt that reports of Israel’s responsibility for civilian deaths in Gaza [which did not distinguish between terrorists and noncombatants] are not exaggerated.

To counter October 7 denialism, the IDF and the Israeli government are encouraging Diaspora Jews to come to Israel – to offer solidarity and global Jewish unity at time of Israeli isolation and to do volunteer work to help the bereaved, the wounded, the evacuees.

Jews should come to bear witness to the tragedy, to see firsthand the evidence, to hear the testimonies of survivors. Then return to our neighborhoods and communities and share affirmation of the October 7 realities.

As with Shoah and the Holy Temple denialism, October 7 denialism must be countered with evidence:

Written documents – letters, memos, speeches, articles, memoirs, confessions by perpetrators who were captured

Eyewitness testimonies by survivors, both civilian and military, Jews, Bedouins, Israeli Muslims, non-Israelis

Photographs, video recordings, social media posts, and all forms of technological record-keeping

Preservation of the sites of the massacres

Let’s not permit the deniers to take claim of our history and memory!

Originally published on The Times of Israel

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