Last week, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, was widely accused by Jews and non-Jews on the left of engaging in Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism when he drew a comparison between Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Adolf Hitler. The comparison involved Assad’s use of chemical weapons to kill and terrorize his own citizens. As there is no lie more heinous than Holocaust denial, this is quite a charge. If true, it would signal an unprecedented moral collapse at the highest levels of American government.
But Sean Spicer never denied the Holocaust.
As professor Alan Dershowitz, a lifelong Democrat, Hillary Clinton supporter and liberal (though not leftist) activist wrote: “It never occurred to me that Spicer’s misstatements were motivated by anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial or an intent to ‘slur’ the Jewish people. Nor do I believe that those who have accused him of such evil motivations actually believe it. They deliberately attributed an evil motive to him in order to pander to Jewish listeners. That offends me more than anything Spicer did.”
Dershowitz is right: the only thing worse than Holocaust denial is falsely accusing someone of engaging in it.
Yet, that is what many on the Jewish and non-Jewish left (but when it comes to the Holocaust, it’s the Jews who matter the most) are guilty of. Accusing a non-Jew of engaging in Holocaust denial is the moral equivalent of the medieval Blood Libel against Jews (the accusation that a Jew killed a Christian child to use the child’s blood to bake matzo for Passover).
Most public figures know that it usually is a bad idea to invoke Nazism or Hitler to make a political point. But Spicer did invoke Hitler, and though he immediately explained himself, the left-wing media, also known as the mainstream media, unleashed a frenzy of irresponsible charges.
Most people knew what Spicer meant — that Assad had done something that even Hitler didn’t do: specifically, use warplanes to drop chemical weapons on his own people. However, given Hitler’s use of gas to murder German Jews, mentally handicapped Germans and others he considered less than human, the statement was factually incorrect. Spicer should not have made the point. Assad’s evil is clear enough without invoking Hitler; and the point he made could be taken by some to lessen Hitler’s evil.
Spicer realized this immediately and made a full apology shortly afterward.
Again, Dershowitz: “There was no hint of anti-Semitism in his [Spicer’s] historical mistake and his apology should have ended the matter.”
Nevertheless, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement under the headline “We will not stand for anti-Semitism,” that included the following: “Denying the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime is a tried and true tactic used by Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups that have become emboldened since Donald Trump first announced his campaign for president.”
And Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, falsely accused Spicer of “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust.”
To which Dershowitz responded: “By leveling that false accusation, Pelosi herself is exploiting the tragedy,” he wrote.
Most people knew what Spicer meant — that Assad had done something that even Hitler didn’t do: specifically, use warplanes to drop chemical weapons on his own people.
Dershowitz also attacked two Jewish frauds, Steven Goldstein and the so-called Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. As I wrote in my last Jewish Journal column, Goldstein engages in chillul Anne Frank, a desecration of the name of Anne Frank.
“Steven Goldstein,” Dershowitz wrote, “a hard-left radical who heads a phony organization that calls itself ‘The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect,’ accused Spicer of ‘engage[ing] in Holocaust denial. … ’
“Goldstein,” Dershowitz continued, “repeatedly exploits the Holocaust in order to gain publicity for him and his tiny group of followers. Shame on them!”
But many left-wing Jews repeatedly quoted Goldstein and his radical Anne Frank Center. Adam Peck, an editor at ThinkProgress; Antonia Blumberg, a reporter at Huffington Post; Noah Berlatsky, writing in the Los Angeles Times; Kenneth Stern, executive director of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation, which also purportedly exists to fight anti-Semitism; and other left-wing Jews cited Goldstein and his organization charging Spicer with Holocaust denial.
Another one of them, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a contributor to CNN Opinion and professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, also continued the lie of tying Trump to anti-Semites and to anti-Semitism, even after it became clear that threats to Jewish community centers had been made by either a Black radical or young American Jew in Israel.
Meanwhile, for the record, in 2013, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” said that unlike Assad, Hitler never used chemical weapons. It is true that he was not the president’s press secretary. But no one — on the left or the right — said anything, let alone accused Matthews of Holocaust denial. But if a Fox News host had said it, left-wing Jews and non-Jews surely would have accused him or her of Holocaust denial.
No one, left or right, should invoke Hitler for political gain. But among Jews, the left has a near monopoly on misusing the Holocaust and anti-Semitism to attack its political foes. It only serves to lessen the unique evil that constitutes the Holocaust.