Israel does not owe its existence to the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War but, without a doubt, the Holocaust played a significant role in speeding up the creation of the Zionist State. If nothing else, that happened in order to salve the world’s conscience for, whether we like to admit it or not, the rest of the world had a rough idea of what Adolf Hitler had planned for the Jews of Europe when he rose to power in 1933. Admittedly, few imagined that he would actually exterminate six million people, although the fact that European Jews were fleeing from their homes throughout that decade was an indicator of their very real and justified fears.
The Central British Fund for German Jewry was established in the 1930s to try and help those Jews living in Germany and Austria. It was through the Fund’s network that around 10,000 Jewish children arrived safely in Britain via the Kindertransport programme and were saved from the Nazis, unlike the parents they left behind, most of whom did not survive the Holocaust.
Hitler demonised the Jews as scapegoats for Germany’s economic ills. They were deemed to be an “inferior” race and the industrialised slaughter that we know as the Holocaust was intended to rid Europe — which the Nazi dictator was intent on conquering and ruling — of its “Jewish problem”. Planning for a Jewish state in Palestine started a long time before the Holocaust was carried out, though; fifty years, in fact, largely in reaction to the anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia. The early Zionists deliberately sought the support of anti-Semites in Europe as both had the same objective — to get Jews out of Europe — albeit for ostensibly different reasons.
The horror of the Holocaust has shocked generations of people around the world. Hollywood has been enlisted to recount tales of brutality, courage, heroism and defiance so that the world cannot forget what happened in Europe between 1939 and 1945. We cannot be allowed to forget what can happen when the apparatus of an industrialised state is used to wipe out a minority group of people purely because of their faith, skin colour or ethnicity.
Sadly, the reality is that we have forgotten and foremost among those suffering from this large-scale amnesia is the government in Tel Aviv and those funding the machinery of the State of Israel. The unbelievable reality is that what happened to Europe’s Jews during the Second World War bears an uncanny resemblance to what is happening to the minority Rohingya people in Myanmar, the former Burma; and yet Israel is supporting the Myanmar army.
A UN report published in August confirmed that the Myanmar military had committed genocide against the Rohingya as well as crimes against humanity. These include the rape and torture of men, women and children as well as the destruction of entire villages from November 2016 to August 2017, when 725,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The independent report was based on the testimony of hundreds of survivors and led to calls for the prosecution of leading figures in Myanmar’s army, including its commander and other top generals, at the International Criminal Court. The report cited “the level of organisation indicating a plan for destruction; and the extreme scale and brutality of the violence” in calling for legal action. Among those named is Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s army, a friend of Israel and a VIP guest in Tel Aviv back in September 2015, where he was hosted by senior defence officials and met with President Reuven Rivlin.
While planning the genocide against the Rohingya people, Hlaing visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, as well as military bases and arms manufacturers. Afterwards, he announced a deal for the purchase of Israeli weapons estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
The fact that Israel supports the genocidal Myanmar military on several levels almost explains, but certainly does not excuse, the casual brutality with which its treats the Palestinians. The double standards and hypocrisy are not lost on Burmese academic Maung Zarni.
“It is utterly disgusting,” he told me, “that a country built on the gut-wrenching tales of the Jewish persecution – and literally on the ashes of 6 million murdered Jews of Europe – would be siding with the genocidal regime, on grounds of its institutionalised genocidal racism against Muslims — ‘the Arabs’ — because Israel would not recognise the Arab residents of occupied Palestine by their self-identity as Palestinians.”
Israel, explained Zarni, is not the only country in the world where the oppressed turn into oppressors. “My own so-called Buddhist society and people, once colonised and semi-enslaved by the British, is today a genocidal nation. Not only is it just the generals and [Aung San] Suu Kyi and top monks who are guilty, but also the overwhelming Myanmar public, including the oppressed Christian and other minorities who cheer on the genocide.”
The academic went on to point out that settler colonies — much of the Americas, for example — were built on genocides. “Look at Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and so on. The nastiness of human organisation is a norm, not the exception. This is the world we live in. This world has always been this way.” Now living in Britain as a political dissident, Zarni added that this is sad, but true.
The military cooperation between Israel and Myanmar has been ongoing for more than six decades. Israel’s Mossad spy agency trained hundreds of Myanmar’s military intelligence officers under the euphemism of “agricultural development” during the 1970s and 80s. Some people believe that “agricultural development” was really a term for the Zionist State’s expansion of illegal settlements and there are suggestions that this could have been a source of inspiration for the Myanmar generals who gave the order for the destruction of hundreds of Rohingya villages.
Numerous Holocaust memorials and museums around the world exist so that we can all remember and honour the victims of the racist ideology of the Nazis. With their genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestine — more than 530 Palestinian towns and villages have been wiped off the face of the earth since 1948 — it seems that the first to have forgotten are those in Tel Aviv who are arming Myanmar’s murderous military, while also supervising their own “slow genocide” of the Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip. “Never again” appears to be a shallow phrase with little real meaning as far as Israel and the customers for its arms in Myanmar are concerned.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.