Monday, April 12, 2010

Sam Lipski's National Curriculum

"The Holocaust has proven to be an indispensible ideological weapon. Through its deployment, one of the world's most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights record, has cast itself as a 'victim' state, and the most successful ethnic group in the United States has likewise acquired victim status. Considerable dividends accrue from this specious victimhood - in particular immunity to criticism, however justified." (Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, 2000, p 3)

Efforts by elements of the Israel lobby to have what they term 'Shoah studies/Holocaust education' included in Australia's new national history curriculum for year 10 have had a measure of success with the appearance in the draft curriculum, of the following unit:

"12. Depth Study 1. The Great War & its aftermath: The significance of WW II, including the Holocaust and use of the atomic bomb. Content elaboration: (1) understanding the social & scientific impact of the war including the nature and effects of the Holocaust; what total war meant for civilians in Asia, Europe & Russia; developments in science & technology (2) examining reasons for the defeat of Germany; discussing the dropping of the A-bombs & the Japanese surrender (3) debating the significance of WW II (eg assessing the 'Good War'); looking at the impact of propaganda; analysing the contribution & change in status of women; study migration away from Europe; comparing the 1945 post war settlement (eg the Marshall Plan with Versailles Peace arrangements; discussing consequences of the Holocaust)"

That Israel lobbyists are more concerned with making pro-Israel hay out of the Holocaust than with its place in history soon becomes apparent, however:

"The inclusion of Holocaust education within the proposed history curriculum was not strictly satisfactory though, with [Robert] Goot [of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)] criticising the decision to incorporate the Shoah as part of a wider unit looking at the aftermath of WW II. 'The conflation of themes, and the attempt to assimilate other large and complex areas of study into the curriculum for teaching the Holocaust, invites confusion and will make what is already a challenging teaching and teacher-training task virtually impossible', he said. 'The formulation of the curriculum concerning the Holocaust needs to be refined'." (Holocaust studies welcomed into new national curriculum, The Australian Jewish News, 5/3/10)

Now, leading Australian Zionist, Pratt Foundation CEO and former AJN editor Sam Lipski has weighed in with his concerns that, even should ECAJ get the kind of refinement they want, this would still not ensure, from the Zionist perspective, the right result:

"While welcoming its inclusion as 'an important step forward', the ECAJ said it was 'disappointing' that the Holocaust was listed within the wider topic of WWII, and 'regrettable' that the draft's focus was on discussing the Holocaust's 'consequences', rather than on what actually happened. Together with Jewish educators and other community stakeholders, the ECAJ will be expressing these concerns during the public consultations. I wish them well... But nobody should have any great expectations. Even if the government planners accept every one of the Jewish community's suggestions - and that's unlikely - there's no way of ensuring that's how the curriculum will be taught in the classroom... given the track record of many Australian teachers on allied subjects such as Israel and the Middle East..." (Shoah studies are not enough, AJN, 9/4/10)

ECAJ's concern about discussing the Holocaust's 'consequences', would, I imagine, relate to any suggestion that Europe somehow sought to assuage its guilt over the Holocaust by acquiescing in Zionism's takeover of Palestine, or, to put it in terms that a year 10 student would surely understand, because the Germans perpetrated the Holocaust against European Jewry, the Palestinians had to pay with the loss of their homeland. You can just see the hands going up: 'Miss, that's not fair!' No, unless the Holocaust is made a stand-alone unit, any such discussion could prove counter-productive from a Zionist perspective. And then you've got Lipski's Zio-centric concern about ensuring how the curriculum will be taught in the classroom... given the track record of many Australian teachers on allied subjects such as Israel and the Middle East.

So what does he propose? Why, the further (even preferred) inclusion in the national curriculum of Zionist foundational mythology no less: "The Passover haggadah* in the history section... and the biblical text from Exodus, Chapters 1-20, in the English section."

Lipski avers that "the Jewish interest, and the wider Australian interest, would be better served if the coming generation of Australian students learnt about Jews and Judaism from 'the exodus master story' rather than from 'the Holocaust master story'." As he explains: "Studying the Holocaust in a Jewish historical vacuum... inevitably means that it will present Jews as uniquely victimised in human history - and only as that. Without also studying who the Jews were, how they began, and what they've had to say about themselves and to the world over 3 millenia, a generation of Australians will gain a misleading picture. Of no benefit to them, and certainly none to the Jews."

[*The Haggadah is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah is a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to each Jew to 'tell your son' about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah. (wikipedia)]

Lipski's plaint offers a fascinating insight into the Zionist mindset. On the one hand, while he wouldn't balk at any pro-Israel propaganda dividends accruing from pushing what Finkelstein calls the "specious victimhood" of the Holocaust master story in the national curriculum (the best possible ECAJ refinement), he believes that only the addition of the exodus master narrative would ensure the maximisation of such dividends.

And what exactly is this exodus master narrative alluded to by Lipski? Well, it just so happens that it's the first installment of Zionism's national mythology. The proverbial thin end of the Zionist wedge, so to speak. To quote from the puckish Shlomo Sand, who is to Zionist mythology what Richard Dawkins is to religious mythologies in general:

"For Israelis, specifically those of Jewish origin, such [modern European national] mythologies are far-fetched, whereas their own history rests on firm and precise truths. They know for a certainty that a Jewish nation has been in existence since Moses received the tablets of the law on Mount Sinai, and that they are its direct and exclusive descendants (except for the 10 tribes, who are yet to be located). They are convinced that this nation 'came out' of Egypt; conquered and settled 'the Land of Israel', which had famously been promised it by the deity; created the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon, which then split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They are also convinced that this nation was exiled, not once but twice, after its periods of glory - after the fall of the First Temple in the 6th century BCE, and again after the fall of the Second Temple, in 70 CE. Yet even before that second exile, this unique nation had created the Hebrew Hasmonean kingdom, which revolted against the wicked influence of Hellenization. They believe that these people - their 'nation', which must be the most ancient - wandered in exile for nearly 2,000 years and yet, despite this prolonged stay among the gentiles, managed to avoid integration with, or assimilation into, them. The nation scattered widely, its bitter wanderings taking it to Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Poland, and distant Russia, but it always managed to maintain close blood relations among the far-flung communities and to preseve its distinctiveness. Then, at the end of the 19th century, they contend, rare circumstances combined to wake the ancient people from its long slumber and to prepare it for rejuvenation and for the return to its ancient homeland. And so the nation began to return, joyfully, in vast numbers. Many Israelis still believe that, but for Hitler's horrible massacre, 'Eretz Israel' would soon have been filled with millions of Jews making 'aliyah' by their own free will, because they had dreamed of it for thousands of years. And while the wandering people needed a territory of its own, the empty, virgin land longed for a nation to come and make it bloom. Some uninvited guests had, it is true, settled in this homeland, but since 'the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion' for 2 millenia, the land belonged only to that people, and not to that handful without history who had merely stumbled upon it. Therefore the wars waged by the wandering nation in its conquest of the country were justified; the violent resistance of the local population was criminal; and it was only the (highly unbiblical) charity of the Jews that permitted these strangers to remain and dwell among and beside the nation, which had returned to its biblical language and its wondrous land." (The Invention of the Jewish People, 2009, pp 16-17)

The only thing I can't understand is Lipski's recommendation that Exodus, Chapters 1-20, be included in the English section of the national curriculum. Isn't it supposed to be history?


Anonymous said...

Maybe the new curriculum should include a section titled

"Lessons of the Holocaust: To do nothing is to be complicit in what others do"


"Can you think of any groups of people whose miserable plight is being ignored by Australian Governments, just as happened to the Jews in the Holocaust?"

Anonymous said...

Well, Lipski's recommendations certainly ramp it up a notch, but the suggestion that it will be very hard to 'get the message right' is correct. In fact, it is next to impossible to create a hermetically sealed narrative these days thanks to the wonders of the internet. E.g. in year 8 of high school, my son along with the rest of his year was sent off to the Sydney Holocaust Museum in order to learn out this important historical event. (Interesting how things have changed. When I was a kid, we were sent to the War Memorial in Canberra. Anyway...). The trip ended up having no discerable effect thanks to the facts that (a) he and his friends were 13 yo and so have the attention span of knats, and (b) he went to Youtube for more information on Israel and ended up being mortified by videos of Israeli brutality under the justification of the very Holocaust he had just been learning about!

In view of this, the best thing that people like Lipski could suggest is to leave the story of the Holocaust to the professional historians within the context of Germany in the 20thC. Anything more than this will inadvertantly 'beg' students to go looking for more on the internet and thereby utterly destroy his intended message.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I know I'm just a stupid former Kansas Protestant, now a Buddhist, but doesn't the Old Testament teach hospitality toward guests and strangers? I mean....the land was vacant when strangers stumbled upon it...wouldn't God "desire mercy, not sacrifice," in this case? Just I said, I'm a self-confessed stupid person.
Sincerely yours, Trystan