Independent Review 2002, Finkelstein Norman

Subject : The Holocaust Industry by Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein
**New Review**

What sort of Truth is it that crushes the freedom to seek the truth?

Finkelstein singles out Elie Wiesel, a concentration-camp survivor and
celebrity commentator on moral issues, for his role as an industry insider.
He “is the Holocaust” (p. 55), according to Finkelstein. It was Wiesel who
systematically applied the word holocaust to the Jewish experience. He
subsequently gained recognition and fortune by lecturing about the
commanding speaking fees that Finkelstein reports to be upward of $25,000
plus a limousine. Finkelstein criticizes the fuzzy aphorisms Wiesel uses to
characterize the holocaust<“noncommunicable,” “we cannot talk about it,” and
“the truth lies in silence”

Historian Norman Finkelstein, the son of Jewish Auschwitz survivors, argues
that the holocaust has been hijacked for political and economic purposes
the help of international bullying by the United States. Although his
economic analysis is ad hoc, Finkelstein=B9s documentation of exploitation,
extortion and de jure political correctness opens the door for further
analysis of a highly sensitive subject.

Title The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish
Author Norman G. Finkelstein
Published New York: Verso, 2000. Pp. 150.
Pages 160
Reviewer James A. Montanye

The suffering of European Jews during the 1930s and 1940s gave rise to a
stock of moral capital that was a measure not of exceptional moral actions
Jews as a group, but of acts committed by their Nazi oppressors. The
label evokes that suffering and those acts. The Holocaust, distinguished by
initial capitalization (a distinction I maintain throughout this review), is
an ideology that has grown up around these interactions. The holocaust
created moral capital. A “Holocaust Industry” exploits it by making a market
in the suffering of “needy holocaust survivors.”

The disadvantages of moral capital are that it is less productive than most
other forms of capital and that its value depreciates quickly as memories
fade and the public sense of guilt and compassion wanes. Its highest value
lies in its capacity to be transformed into more enduring political
(rent-seeking) capital. The transformation process requires entrepreneurship
as an input and spawns an industry that produces entrepreneurial returns for
its creators and patrons.

These points are the foundations of historian Norman Finkelstein’s slim
volume, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish
Suffering. The book complements a short list of recent works by Jewish
scholars (several of which Finkelstein critiques) that reflect on the upturn
of interest in books, movies, and television documentaries about the
holocaust and that ask (some skeptically): “Why here, and why now?” (See,
example, Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life [Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1999].) Finkelstein argues, against the grain, that this interest
“a tribute not to Jewish suffering but to Jewish aggrandizement” (p. 8). He
documents economic exploitation by the Holocaust Industry, which he calls an
“outright extortion racket” (p. 89). He also documents the U.S. role in
facilitating the extraction of holocaust rents (which he inexactly terms
“profits”). He argues that the Holocaust Industry would not exist without
international bullying by the United States, which is why this country is
a target of rent extraction despite having a record on holocaust issues that
is scarcely distinguishable from that of the recently extorted Swiss.

A positive economic analysis of this aspect of postwar economic behavior has
yet to emerge. Not even the “revisionist” literature analyzes the public
economic behavior of Zionist groups and other Jewish factions. This lacuna
puzzling. Economists have tackled other aspects of religious organization
using the positive method of industrial organization and public choice (see,
for example, Robert Ekelund and others, Sacred Trust: The Medieval Church as
an Economic Firm [New York: Oxford University Press, 1996]). Surely the
existence of Holocaust rents has not entirely escaped the notice of economic
historians and theorists. It may be that the holocaust’s enhanced presence
today represents nothing more than market maturation. But without a positive
theory with which to examine the industry’s structure, conduct, and
performance, it is impossible to know.

Finkelstein’s book will probably disappoint readers hoping for an economic
analysis along the lines of that by Ekelund and others. Finkelstein uses a
historical approach that is like descriptive political economy. Accordingly,
he develops no positive theories whose implications can be tested against
anecdotal evidence he has amassed. The result in places is a patchwork of ad
hoc explanations leading to conclusions that are not obviously superior to
those he criticizes. Nevertheless, the book is provocative and brimming with
recent historical detail. With a bit of luck, it will attract the interest
academic economists.

The gravamen of Finkelstein’s argument, which is shared by an increasing
number of Jews and others worldwide, is that “the current campaign of the
Holocaust Industry to extort money from Europe in the name of ‘needy
Holocaust victims’ has shrunk the moral status of martyrdom to that of a
Monte Carlo casino” (p. 8). Although such blasphemy would normally be
attacked as an anti-Semitic diatribe, Finkelstein escapes such treatment as
the son of Jewish Auschwitz survivors. Even so, he reports being called a
“garbage man,” an “anti-Zionist,” and a “notorious ideological opponent
of the State of Israel” (pp. 65=AD66) at various times in his scholarly
Critics disparage his book, however, by associating it with those allegedly
anti-Semitic officials and private individuals who express agreement with
author’s brief. These sympathizers include, among others, citizens of
European countries who see themselves as being extorted by the Holocaust
Industry, even as the Palestinian victims of Zionism remain uncompensated
their continuing loss of life, land, and liberty after decades of
and subordination. Occasional proposals to compensate Palestinians out of
Holocaust Industry rents wither quickly and die quietly. (Palestinians
lack the entrepreneurial skills to press their claims successfully.) The
author reports the fear in some quarters that Holocaust Industry activities
will provoke a dangerous wave of bona fide anti-Semitism.

Finkelstein notes that the threat of indiscriminate, ad hominem slanders for
alleged anti-Semitism has long been an effective deterrent to the public
discussion of Holocaust Industry issues, which may help to explain the lack
of a robust economic literature in this area. A few countries (Canada,
France, and Germany, for example) have adopted laws that limit or otherwise
chill public discussion. Several U.S. states presently require “approved”
holocaust studies in public schools. The value of these public policies,
the industry’s perspective, lies in preventing uninhibited discussions that
would dissipate Holocaust rents. Holocaust Affairs offices within the White
House and the Departments of Justice and State, staunch political support in
Congress, and U.S. support at the United Nations are further indicia of
successful rent seeking by the Holocaust Industry.

Viewing history through an economic lens shows how “the Holocaust” has
a proprietary trademark. The murder of between three and six million Jews
(industry estimates usually exceed historical estimates) was not
intrinsically unique to a century that witnessed the wholesale slaughter of
many ethnic groups, including the Nazis’ systematic killing of Gypsies,
homosexuals, and physically and mentally disabled individuals. The twentieth
century’s body count ran into the hundreds of millions, with many victims in
the latter years being killed by Israeli-made weapons. Even so, the
Industry has created a property right in the “uniqueness” of the holocaust.
This right is defended aggressively. Every application of the Holocaust
to other large-scale atrocities, most recently to the systematic killing of
Muslims in Kosovo, is actively opposed. (Governments that sponsor atrocities
also oppose the application of this label in order to soften the public
perception of their actions.) Xerox opposes the generic labeling of document
reproduction as xeroxing for exactly the same reason.

The aggressive defense and maintenance of the Holocaust brand have been so
successful that even a few gentiles have gained wealth and notoriety by
masquerading as Jewish holocaust survivors

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