Guantanamo: the New Auschwitz?

The following story has odd timing – only yesterday I was pondering the comparison between Auschwitz and Guantanamo.

Next month I will be presenting a paper in Krakow and as it will be the third time I have visited (and the hotel is so close to the bus station), I considered visiting the former concentration camp.

Browsing the website I was surprised that the 90 minute tour could be bought to the tune of £50 per person.josh_healey

£50. Crikey.

Which led to an impromptu debate with my colleague concerning the notion that the Holocaust has become a business and I wondered whether in 40 years time Guantanamo would be the same.

Somehow I doubt it – most likely it will be confined to the footnotes of history, a time that the West would prefer to forget.

Nevertheless, the comparison between the two camps is intriguing and one which cost the Jewish poet and activist Josh Healey his place on the first J Street National Conference.

The organization markets itself as being:

J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East and a broad public and policy debate about the U.S. role in the region.

[F]ounded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.  [Source]

Yet the reality is that the perspective is wholly biased:

J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own – two states living side-by-side in peace and security. [Source]

After a blogger posted a reminder that Healey compared Guantanamo prison to Auschwitz, the poetry session was cancelled.

Ironically the session was titled ‘Culture as a Tool for Change’.

Freedom of speech is clearly not an inherent aspect of culture or change for J Street, then.

In response, Healey struck out at J Street for undermining efforts at dialogue and open thought:

I had a conversation with ‘J Street’ staff, and they explained that they are playing the game – Washington politics, and seeking legitimacy. And they are not willing to fight this battle.

I told them I don’t think it’s the legitimacy they want, because it’s not the legitimacy that makes change. When you’re trying to make change, you must expect that some people will push back. […] I’m not personally offended – I’m politically disappointed.

It’s ironic that we were invited to perform and be a part of the dialogue at the track ‘The culture as a tool for change.’ But we can’t even have this dialogue. The Jewish community acts like children, with smear campaigns and name-calling. I am not surprised by the right wing attacks – but that J-Street went along with it and accommodated it. [Source]

It is interesting to note that throughout the article neither the organizers of the conference nor the writer refer directly to the comparison between Guantanamo and Auschwitz, merely that Holocaust imagery is not to be ‘used’ and ‘abused’.

Whether Healey was justified in his comparison is beside the point: it is the bitter censorship – particularly from an organization posturing about ‘diplomatic solutions’ – that rankles most.

5 comments on “Guantanamo: the New Auschwitz?

  1. kinziblogs
    October 21, 2009

    Ohhh wow, I am not sure what to think of this. Yes, I think Jews have milked/’used’ the Holocaust, almost to the point it has lost it’s shock value. But we need to stay shocked.

    I lived in Austria, surrounded by elderly Nazis who loved to have coffee and talk about WWII.@@ Eye-opener. I visited Mauthausen camp several times with touring friends. Heart-wrenching tragedy.

    You need to see Auschwitz, 50 pounds or not. I have twice, taken by a Polish pastor who as a child watched the trains arrive, saw the smoke rise and smelled the bodies as they burned. They towns people lived in fear that they, as Poles, would be next.

    I think he would weep if he saw the title here.

    As bad as Gitmo is, there are no women and children dying there, burned like trash in the end. There is plenty of hallal food. They don’t have to work until they die of exhaustion, they are not used for medical experiments without anesthesia or used as prostitutes.

    They were not confined because they were the wrong or inferior nationality, religion or sexual orientation. Guantanamo Bay may be a horrible travesty of modern justice, but it is not Auschwitz.

    That said, I need to learn more about J Street and the groups you mention here.

    Have fun in Krakow, I really enjoyed that city 🙂

    • Layla
      October 24, 2009

      Hmm… You pluck at my conscience with the tweezers of rationality, Kinzi! 🙂

      In my mind, both are heinous acts of mankind. It can be argued that the sheer volume of evidence of the Holocaust renders it the great tragedy of our times.

      That does not mean that what is unfolding slowly in front of our eyes – not just in terms of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib – is not another for the 21st century.

      Inhumanity takes many forms, but it is still plain old inhumanity, no matter how it is dressed up.

      • kinziblogs
        November 4, 2009

        Layla, I missed your reply. And your tweezers are also at work! In warning at what is unfolding and could become, unchecked, in this century.

        Information, technology and progress have not improved the inhumanity of man. We must guard against unleashing the monster within.

        The greatest tragedy is when we don’t learn, when the victim become the oppressor, and the cycle repeats.

  2. kinziblogs
    October 21, 2009

    Belatedly, good manners reminds me to inquire as to the similarities?

  3. BruceCarson2008
    February 9, 2011

    The difference is that Auschwitz had some limited amount of logic to it, there was actually a large Jewish resistance trying to undermine the war effort. Gitmo just locks up some goat herders made out to be world terrorists, just to justify the US and Israel smearing Palestinians and Arabs as terrorists. The creation of a scapegoat is indeed a commonality between the two. But the number of occasions of Jewish resistance against Germany were many fold, many times more the number of Muslim “terrorist” attacks.

    Gitmo, Palestinian prisoners in Israel, Auschwitz… it’s all very similar. Honestly though if anyone today should be in a Gitmo/Auschwitz style prison, it’s the leadership of Israel.

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This entry was posted on October 20, 2009 by in Americas, Conflict Zones, Culture, Europe, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Pop culture and tagged , , , , , , , .
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