Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 9:08 AM ET, 02/ 3/2011

EXCLUSIVE: Holocaust historian's quote used to slam Beck without permission

By Jennifer Rubin

Deborah E. Lipstadt, a respected Holocaust scholar, was quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) letter slamming Glenn Beck for use of Holocaust imagery. She tells Right Turn the quote was used in the ad without her approval.

At the Forward, a decidedly liberal publication, she explains: "In recent weeks the debate about branding one's political opponents 'Nazis' has become quite heated. Most of the attention has focused on Fox News's star performer, Glenn Beck, who has made it a practice to compare his opponents to Nazis." She brands Fox's record as "atrocious," but then she notes that Jewish Funds for Justice "has taken the lead in mounting an anti-Beck/Ailes/Fox campaign over this issue. An avowedly progressive group, JFSJ has been taking aim at Beck for some time over his attacks on the concept of 'social justice.'" She continues:

I don't disagree with the thrust of JFSJ's ad. That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can't Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration's policies and concluded: "People look at all this and think of Hitler -- and rightly so." British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration "more dangerous than Nazi Germany." (Emphasis added.)

Similarly, references to Israelis as "Nazis" and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

One need not minimize the danger of Beck's rhetoric in order to wonder why JFSJ -- which has significant credibility among progressives -- has not mounted an equally passionate critique of misbegotten analogies on the left. Is this about principle, or is it about politics? Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch? (Of course, there are also some conservatives who have no trouble spotting anti-Semitic innuendo except when it is appearing on Fox.)

I e-mailed her last night to inquire, in light of all that, why her quote appeared in the ad, in essence giving an endorsement to JFSJ's letter. She responded by e-mail:

I was NOT asked for permission to use my quotes. The quotes were taken from an interview I gave to NPR [David Folkenflik] that was on [NPR's] All Things Considered. I was livid at not having been, at the very least, given a heads up. I happened to be at Shabbat dinner with a member of the JFSJ Board and expressed my anger.

I spoke to Professor Lipstadt by phone this morning. She explained that JFSJ had contacted her about Beck and sent her some clips. When the ad appeared she complained to JFSJ and received a profuse written apology by e-mail.

In her view, Beck's behavior is "despicable." She explains that in political discourse "It is entirely unacceptable to simply call someone a Nazi. It's wrong." She says that Beck's assertion that JFSJ's president Simon Greer's use of the term "common good" is the sort of thing that lead to the Holocaust is historically false and "so distasteful." She says she doesn't think Beck is anti-Semitic, and "I know he's not pro-Nazi." What he is doing, she says, is "playing this" as a way of getting attention and ratings.

And then she adds, "I think the same could be said of JFSJ." She says she opposes inappropriate use of Holocaust imagery "when it is on the left and when it is on the right." Why? Indiscriminate and inappropriate use of Holocaust language and imagery "scratches away" at the unique horror and sacred memory of the Holocaust.

I would suggest that selective outrage about the Holocaust is equally objectionable in that it converts the Holocaust from an historic event of immense suffering and meaning into a tool for partisan battle. The rabbis, unlike Beck, are uniquely responsible for educating the public and their congregants about the legacy of the Holocaust. They have done damage to themselves, the rabbinate and that legacy by joining in the political food fight. Shame on them.

UPDATE(11:57): Professor Lipstadt emails to say that she didn't mean to compare Beck to JFSJ. (The quote in my piece was a direct one.) She adds, "If I indeed said it, it was not what I meant as I hope was clear from the rest of our conversation." Professor Lipstadt explains that the equivalency that she is addressing is the behavior of partisans on the left and the right who are selective in their targets (the very point I have made repeatedly at Right Turn). She emails, "As I said in my piece in the Forward, JFSJ has compromised its credibility by being silent about those on the left and vocal about Beck." I asked if JFSJ was in any different category than those she criticizes. She replied, "No they are NOT in a separate category. The reason so much attention has been focused on them is that they have led the charge on the Fox News issue." I appreciate Professor Lipstadt's further thoughts, which I hope JFSJ and others will take to heart.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 3, 2011; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  American Jews  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama dissed, Mubarak cracks down
Next: Losing a repeal vote, but winning the war against ObamaCare


Eight years of BusHitler have pretty much dissipated the moral power behind "progressive" "outrage" at the use of any Nazi related language.

Charges of racism leveled at those who disagree with the President are sending that charge down the same path to semantic irrelevance as well.

Posted by: Bobo4 | February 3, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Rubin's last point, castigating RABBIS for their selective outrage about holocaust references is 100% dead-on and should be part of every letter or mention of this ridiculous effort on the part of the 400 rabbis (itself a horrific imitation of an earlier gathering of 400 morally committed rabbis who attempted to do something to prevent the actual holocaust, and who would likely have been condemned for their actions by the current 400).

Posted by: lorilowenthalmarcus | February 3, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"Professor Lipstadt explains that the equivalency that she is addressing is the behavior of partisans on the left and the right who are selective in their targets (the very point I have made repeatedly at Right Turn)."

Jennifer claims to be upset about selective outrage. Which is odd considering her focus, near obsession with the New Black Panther case.

Its also sad that Jennifer is unable to take Beck to task with offering some pablum that everybody does it.

But I love the last part where Jennifer misquotes the expert in question while fulminating that the Rabbis used the expert's quotes without permission!

Since Jennifer hates selective outrage and is certainly not a craven hypocrite, I expect we'll see a blog post on the FBI reopening "cold cases" dealing Klan murders during thew Civil Rights era.

Ya know cases where people were brutally murdered because of the color of their skin.

Posted by: thetruth2011 | February 3, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Beck last night insinuated that ACORN is behind the Egypt unrest.

Will Jennifer agree with him or just omit his latest insanity?

Posted by: thetruth2011 | February 3, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Professor Lipstadt, for being a voice of intelligence and reason.

Posted by: VirginiaIndependent | February 3, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Bobo4 is right. We keep defining down our rhetoric. Nazi used to mean something. Now, it is more like a mild insult to be casually tossed into the conversation. After 9/11 accusing someone, with whom you disagreed, of being a "terrorist" became all too frequent and acceptable. Now, we find the English Court has defined domestic abuse as including yelling at your spouse. Why should "Holocaust" be exempt from being defined down. Everything else is. Nouns are losing all meaning.

Posted by: RickCaird | February 3, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The charge of "Nazi" hasn't meant anything serous since "Hogan's Heros" made them into lovable fools.... who, like Sgt Schultz "knew nothing..."

The fundamental truth of Godwin's law isn't limited to the internet

Posted by: Lokki | February 4, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Bush approved torture and removed civil rights much less invaded a country for no reason.He used gut feeling instead of logic.
Any moral highground America held globaly was destroyed. At the time he was a very dangerous man and the comparisons were valid.

Posted by: Spacetrucker | February 4, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company