Jewish Journal

McCain accused of exploiting Holocaust

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 23, 2008 | 8:47 pm

McCain on an earlier visit to Israel

I’ve heard people accuse Jews of abusing memories of the Holocaust for political gain. Some people make a career of it. But I’ve never heard a Jew accuse a gentile of doing the same.

With Barack Obama visiting Yad Vashem today and paying homage to the six million Jews slaughtered by the Nazis, John McCain’s campaign was trying to score political points—and failing miserably.

“Today he says ‘never again.’ A year ago stopping genocide wasn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. Doesn’t that strike you as inconsistent?” aide Michael Goldfarb asked.

I’m going to start by assuming that Goldfarb is Jewish (he would do the same if he met me), but he was speaking here as an emissary for McCain. Secondly, genocide hasn’t been at issue in Iraq since the Al-Anfal campaign against Kurds ended in 1989, two years before the first war in Iraq. Sectarian violence still simmers and hasn’t disappeared, but it is a stretch to imply that ethnic cleansing would return if we left.

Civil war, yes. Genocide, no. While both scenarios would be awful, the former is irrelevant for the issue at hand.

“This is a base, shallow and treif attack that abuses one of the central historical events of Jewish history to smear a presidential candidate,” Richard Silverstein wrote on his blog.

Victims of the Khmer Rouge

Indeed, if genocides already underway were McCain’s concern, why didn’t he speak up when the Khmer Rouge wiped out 2 million Cambodians or during the three-year siege of Sarajevo or when the crisis in Darfur began five years ago? (If he did, somebody put me in my place.)

J Street, which has been looking for opportunities to make its dovish-pro-Israel name known, brought the exploitation accusations against McCain. Their release is after the jump:

We are shocked and dismayed by today’s exploitation by aides to Senator John McCain of the memory of the Holocaust while Senator Barack Obama was visiting Yad Vashem in Israel.

It is one thing to have a legitimate disagreement over keeping American troops in Iraq for sixteen months or a hundred years.

It is another to shamelessly exploit the sacred memory of six million victims of the worst crime in human history to score political points in the heat of a partisan election campaign.

Political candidates should want to wake up the morning after an election, look themselves in the mirror, and be able to say, win or lose, they waged their campaign with dignity and lived up to their own high standards of morals and decency. 

This is not a moment that can make Senator McCain proud of the way his campaign is being conducted.

We expect more of Senator McCain and we are certain he will immediately and firmly not only set the record straight but set his aides straight on what’s in and what’s out of bounds in his presidential campaign.


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