Selling Genocide

This article also appears on Lay of the Land:

Selling Genocide

Genocide seems to have become a hot commodity these days. For those with discerning but appalling taste, images of Auschwitz can decorate your closet or your home. Fancy an “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work will set you free, the sign at the entrance to Auschwitz Death Camp) scatter cushion or even more disgusting, a gas chamber print shower curtain? You can purchase on a variety of e-commerce sites.

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FOR SALE ONLINE. A beach towel

For some reason, companies like Pixel.com, Amazon and Red Bubble, all of whom have featured Auschwitz-themed products, think it is okay to commercialise and commoditize the world’s most notorious death camp which saw amongst others, the wholesale extermination of the Jewish people, including the elderly and children. Over a million people were slaughtered, tortured, had medical experiments inflicted on them and endured hell on earth at this place. Jews were the only group targeted for mass murder.

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Outrageous. Birkenau Death Camp Greeting Cards and Beach Towels

Auschwitz is a monument to the darkest, most traumatic time in our history – not a desirable print for your fall fashion line or the perfect way to accessorise your couch.  Fashion website, Red Bubble thought a pencil skirt or scatter cushions was a fetching way to make a buck. They faced a barrage of outrage and were eventually forced to take it down.

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Where’s The Shame And Sensitivity? Red Bubble faced a barrage of complaints for selling Nazi death camp skirts and cushions online

In the last week, e-commerce giant Amazon was taken to task for selling Christmas ornaments with images of Auschwitz on them. Because nothing says festive season and peace and goodwill to all men like genocide?  You could also order the matching bottle opener.

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FOR SALE ONLINE. A mini-skirt has an image of the chimneys from the Auschwitz Death camp (Picture: AP)

The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland weighed in on the sale of Christmas ornaments and bottle openers calling it disturbing, inappropriate and disrespectful and eventually, Amazon took the offensive products off their site.

With the avalanche of complaints from Jews and people of common sense around the world, one would think that other merchants would have learnt. Is it an act of deliberate provocation, ignorance or just plain bad taste?

When did it become okay to treat the worst genocide in history as a saleable commodity, to be exploited on clothing and home accessories?

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FOR SALE ONLINE. The train lines to death feature on a cushion. (Picture: Twitter)

This week, Pixels.com, a site that facilities the selling of artist’s prints and photographs also jumped in on the profiting off mass murder bandwagon when they advertised the opportunity to but beach towels, phone cases, yoga mats, duvet covers, tote bags, t-shirts, mugs, portable battery chargers and other items on their site.  There was even an image of the gas chambers on a shower curtain. There are barely enough words to express how hurtful and offensive this is.

There is nothing remotely “beachie” about a towel with a death camp on it. There is nothing zen about prisoner barracks on a yoga mat. Only an avalanche of outraged complaints seemed to wake up these pornographers of death.  Inundated with complaints, they eventually removed the offensive articles from their website; but this has not been the first time this site has published these products. It probably won’t be the last.

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FOR SALE ONLINE. A bag features the words ‘Risk of Death’ on it (Picture: Twitter)

A recent study in the USA found that two thirds of millennials can’t identify Auschwitz. It is an absolute imperative that we educate our youth – and these sites. Education first –  before the grossest genocide in human history becomes nothing but an item for sale. Sadly, some experts say that as these e-commerce sites become more automated, this horrible trend may only grow.

We cannot be complacent. I can only imagine the pain of Holocaust survivors when they see that their grief, their pain, their torture is for sale and we need to speak up for them. We need to act for those who perished who have no voice. Our message has to be clear.

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Contrary To Christmas. For sale on Amazon was this Christmas ornament featuring Auschwitz. A list of Christmas ornaments, including bottle openers, were later removed following complaints.(Amazon/via JTA)

Our pain, our loss is not for sale. Our trauma, our lost loved ones are not for your profit margins.

Genocide is not a profitable commodity – no matter how you accessorise it.

 

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Selling Shame. Auschwitz museum shames fashion website selling Nazi death camp skirts

The new Normal?

This article is currently feature on Lay of the Land:

Lay of the Land

There is barely a day that goes by without some iteration of antisemitism rearing its ugly head, somewhere around the world. In every guise you can image – the desecration of graves in Jewish cemeteries, shootings in synagogues, the alt-right, the ultra-left, campus activism, venomous slurs directed at children, rabbis beaten in the street, the new phenomenon of political antisemitism – you name it, this hatred has manifested.

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Antisemitism is at a record high and it seems that no corner of the globe is immune. The message seems to be clear – it is open season on attacking Jews – verbally and sometimes physically.

Antisemitism is often referred to as the “oldest hatred” and it metastasizes quickly and in various forms. This ancient hatred has the uncanny ability to adapt to changing times and political climates. It seems that in this age of global uncertainty; where identity politics is becoming more and more prevalent; if you have a divergent opinion you could be “cancelled”, Jews once again, are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine.

In parts of the world where it was taken for granted that the vile tentacles of antisemitism would not reach, this is no longer the reality. It used to be taken for granted that countries like the United States or Australia were immune to this hatred or that Germany and Poland had learnt from their history less than a century ago but sadly, this isn’t the case.

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Synagogue Again On The Hit List. Rescued congregants of the Jewish community and police forces near the scene of a shooting in Halle, Germany, in October 2019.(Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

According to recent surveys conducted by organisations like the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and the AJC (American Joint Committee) who conducted their research on growing antisemitism recently, they both reported an alarming rise in statistics.

The ADL findings reported that these countries had the highest percentages of antisemitism: Poland, South Africa (although the SA Jewish Board of Deputies disputes these findings), Ukraine, Hungary, Russia, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Belgium and Austria.

Australia reported a 30% increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the last year that included verbal abuse, harassment, and intimidation. This is according to the country’s annual Report on Antisemitism in Australia.

The new Normal3.JPGThe United States has seen antisemitism spread like a plague across university campuses, Orthodox Jews harassed and beaten up in New York City, and violence has escalated to the point where the community has endured two deadly synagogue shootings and the site of members of the alt-right marching with their tiki torches chanting “Jews will not replace us”. Like Britain with controversy surrounding antisemitism in the Labour party and the reluctance or stubborn refusal of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to tackle this scourge which leaves many of England’s Jews feeling politically stateless, the United States has seen the same phenomenon rears its ugly head in US politics. 2019 has been the year of the “Squad” – rookie congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and to a lesser account, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has used their newly minted status and platforms like Twitter to excoriate the Jewish state. This has filtered out into the ultra-left and is evident on university campuses and in movements like Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March.

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Targeting Jews. Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 31, 2018. Eleven people were killed in a mass shooting just days earlier. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The irony is that the two seemingly divergent left and right meet in the middle when it comes to opinions on Jews and the nation state of the Jewish people – Israel.

It is social media that is perhaps becoming the most alarming platform for hate. Mediums like Facebook and Twitter have created a space where like-minded haters can band together to create community. In this instance, these communities empower each other to prey upon their targets.

As an outspoken supporter of Israel, I have received my fair share of nasty messages and have summarily reported them to Twitter and Facebook. Apparently wishing me dead does not violate their “community standards”.  Pop superstar, Lady Gaga, once commented that social media was “the toilet of the internet” and she could not have been more right.

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“Enough”. Thousands of people have joined protests across France against a spate of anti-Semitic attacks.

Actor and comedian, Sasha Baron Cohen, famous for playing some of the most controversial and sometimes tasteless characters in his movies (albeit to prove a point) recently took Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg to task for among many things, not effectively regulating his platform. Cohen rightly stated that should platforms like Twitter and Facebook been around during Hitler’s time, the dictator and his murderous henchman would have used it to full effect to propagate hate. Cohen called these platforms “the greatest propaganda machines in history. “

He went on to take shots at Zuckerberg for allowing Holocaust deniers to go unregulated because of the “freedom of speech”.

“Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach,” Cohen asserted. “I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims.”

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Sign Of The Times. A Holocaust denier holds a sign on the campus quad of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, September 10, 2019. (Courtesy AMCHA)

Social media is not the only battlefield for rising antisemitism. The battlefield has moved to the streets, the schools, the corridors of power, the graveyards, university campus, and the holy sanctuaries. It has become pervasive.

The only way to fight this scourge is to speak up. Stand Up – it is important to remember that we have a voice. Social media platforms used for propagating hate can also be used to educate against it. It is important that intolerance is not allowed an environment to flourish. Antisemitism gives a tailwind to those who wish to discriminate against any minority.  Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor in his famous poem first they came said the following,

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—     because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—   because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—         because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Speak up. Do not let hatred go unchecked. Don’t let this become the new “normal”.

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Labour Of Hate. Demonstrators stage a protest against anti-Semitism in Britain’s Labour Party in April.