Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Paradesi: Bala's exercise in sado-masochism

"Our sweetest songs are those that tell our saddest thoughts" warbled Shelley in his 'Ode to a skylark'. The genius of Shakespeare reaches its apogee in his tragedies. Music can haunt us with a sad strain. Movies like 'Life is Beautiful' and 'Bicycle Thieves' leaves us with a pang in our heart. Portraying tragedy in a play or music or a movie calls upon the deepest reservoirs of creativity in any artist because  the portrayal can easily slide into a maudlin meaningless assault on the senses. Life abounds in tragedy. War zones with children starving and maimed continues till today. Promising lives cut short by disease and poverty is an all too common truth. So many children die of cancer after an unspeakably horrifying ordeal. How does any art form deal with all that? When does a tragic story become epic? When does a portrayal of tragedy become art and not a documentary? If one can answer with an example of showcasing a work to say this is how it should NOT be then Tamil director Bala's 'Paradesi' is a good example.

Bala gained quite a reputation for gritty movies that revolve around those that languish in the margins of life. His 'Naan Kadavul' with its cast of deformed individuals eking out a life under a slave holder made stomachs churn. Such moviemaking has earned Bala a halo of making 'unflinching' movies that are difficult to watch and for that reason alone praised. Yet his movies are only difficult to watch as much as one cannot stand next to a gutter infested with pigs. Neither has any profundity. If one wanted to make art by showing on screen what we would turn our eyes away from then all that we have to do is give a camcorder to a child and let it loose in some slums and conflict zones in the world, say in Ethiopia.

Seeing me disinterested in the movie my cousin, who loved the movie and who knows my deep love for  studying Holocaust, asked "if this movie was about Holocaust would you not be watching it enraptured". I told him "Exactly. Go watch 'Schindler's List' or 'Pianist' to understand how tragedy is portrayed'. I also added "watch out for Charu's review he would mention those movies". Next day morning my cousin told me "you are great. Charu just now posted a review and he cited 'Schindler's List' and 'Pianist'".

Millions perished in the ovens of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. How does one portray it in a movie and not come across as documentary? Why would 'Pianist' be a work of art but the documentary 'Auschwitz', however expensively and detailed its production might be, remain just a documentary?

Roman Polanski and Spielberg did not show people just being marched to death. There is a reason they both picked stories that had a redemptive element, a sense of hope amidst unspeakable horror, a faith in the triumphant spirit of humanity. A Nazi officer being moved by listening to Chopin, a Nazi war profiteer weeping about the lives he could have saved had he been more frugal in his expenses, give hope in humanity. It is that sense of hope that saves those movies from being dreary. Is that naive? No. That is the proper function of art.

Take 'Sophie's Choice'. Another movie centered on Holocaust and one that ends in heartbreaking tragedy. The heroine had to choose between her babies as to which she will give up to die in Auschwitz. But that is not the choice that the movie pivots on. That choice haunts the heroine and propels her to make one final choice, between her lover and husband. The tragic ending is poignant and one that the story inexorably churns towards. Its like how Macbeth, Hamlet and Lear churn towards their climactic tragic conclusion. And in their conclusion the reader or viewer strangely feels a liberation. Its a liberation in having peered at a profound layered truth that often glides by us unnoticed in the rush of life.

Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoir 'Pianist' is a mediocre book and certainly not to be ranked alongside Elie Wiesel's 'Night' or Viktor Frankl's 'Man's search for meaning' or Primo Levy's 'Survival in Auschwitz'. Yet Polanski turns a mediocre memoir into art with creative re-telling that includes even some fictional moments, one of which, when Szpilman plays an imaginary piano, is very poignant.

Bala is no sensitive artist or a keen student of literature and this shows. He took a book, 'Red Tea', about the travails of bonded laborers in British era tea estates and turns it into a documentary that pretends to be a movie.

The movie has dialogues scripted by Nanjil Nadan, a Sahitya Akademi awardee. Nanjil has a repugnant anal fetish. I've seen his stories abound with remarks about farting or piles. I guess in his mind nativity means speaking of the rear end and its functions. Even with a much respected author by his side Bala slips on characterizations. The movie garnered rave reviews particularly for Nanjil Nadan's dialogues. The dialogues were not exceptional and could have been written by anon with a sharp pen. I'd hazard a guess that Nanjil was not integral to movie making but wrote dialogues for scenes narrated by the director and I'd even guess that Nanjil's dialogues were edited mercilessly by the director.

Many have fondly recalled Nanjil's short story 'Idalaakudi Rasa' being used in the early portrayal of the hero. But that story, particularly the characterization of Rasa, had no context in this movie. Only in Tamil Nadu would reviewers wax eloquent about a misplaced short story out of affection for the author. Nanjil did not enhance his literary credentials a bit by taking part in this movie. Why do Tamil authors crave for cinema fame and attention?

The hero who appears like a retarded bumpkin in the opening scenes later emulates higher cognitive emotions of deep sympathy and even a sense of righteousness. A panoply of characters come and go with cardboard like qualities. A character is either villainous or innocent. A pyramid of exploitation crushes the gullible villagers with the middleman, a hack and few others up the totem pole all under the British estate owner.

The cinematographer was a much spoken about Chezhian. Other than employing a sepia toned lens I am not sure what he accomplished. As the villagers, by the tens, drink water from a pond like animals the camera sweeps across them and a scene with potential for poignancy just glides by. Long shots, sweeping panorama, sepia tone etc do not make up for cinematography. Cinematography is more than just handling a camera and knowing technology. It is not a mean feat that Schindler's List, filmed in black and white, won an Oscar for cinematography.

Music was sheer torture in a movie where music should have been one of the pillars. Again, G.V.Prakash probably knows how to play instruments and bang a few notes but that does not make him a musician. Incidentally the result would be no different even if Ilayaraaja, a has been, had scored the music.

The worst part of the movie was the Christian doctor. The characters was a pathetic caricature of evangelical christians who proselytize tribals. Yes proselytization remains a stigma for many missionaries. But equally undeniable is the role of CHristian missionaries in bringing education and health services to many remote corners. Ironically the book that the movie was based upon was written by a Christian doctor, P.H.Daniel, who toiled amongst the laborers. The doctor in the movie even dances a ridiculous dance with his White wife to celebrate Christmas. As they dance they assume the position that depicts the crucifix and they cavort while throwing bread to the laborers. A clear allusion to the Gospel miracle of feeding 5000. Thankfully Bala, in his perversion, did not pick on Muslims.

The story itself just plods and in fact the central theme of the movie happens only at half point (interval). Until then it is filled with inane jokes of the heroine teasing the bumpkin hero and a very thin portrayal of village life. Bala had used villagers as actors. He hit a bumper prize with the hero's grandmother. Everyone else has no idea of what acting it. There is a reason why professional actors should be used in a movie.

Upon reaching the plantation the movie drops any pretense of being a movie and is sheer documentary of the repressiveness and exploitation. The scene where the Britishers party and talk of Gandhi showcases the cardboard nature of characters and the pathetic quality of the actors. The movie, with a fetish for tragedy, the careens from one contrived tragedy to another. The ordeal finally ends with the hero's wife and newly born child entering the gates of hell. This was supposed to leave the viewer dazed and angry at a world of hopelessness. Yet, most viewers heave a sigh of relief and dart towards getting into their cars to drive back home. There is no lingering sadness just a vicarious pleasure of having slithered out of a gutter.

Vittoria De Sica's much lauded 'Bicycle thieves' too ends on a sad note. A father and son walk away with no hope about tomorrow in war ravaged Italy. What is worse the father had been humiliated as a thief before the eyes of his son. There is poignance in that simple story of a father desperately trying to get a cycle so he could go to his just secured job.

Satyajit Ray's 'Ashani Sanket' is a sensitive portrayal of the Bengal famine, in which millions perished. Ray takes us on a journey to understand the ravages of a famine that wrecked a once prosperous state. He narrates sensitively the breakdown of traditional relations. The famine is both central theme and a backdrop to a changing world.

All that Paradesi indulges in is a kind of sadism in tormenting the viewers and it is masochistic in as much as Bala wallows in making such movies.

Bala released a 'making of Paradesi' trailer prior to movie release. He would painstakingly instruct each and every actor on what postures to assume, how not to stare at a camera, how to engage in conversations and look natural etc. Bala, I am sure, has a great future as an assistant director. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Holocaust and the Israeli/Jewish psyche

Hollywood found a convenient story in Rwanda and romanticized the story of Tutsi persecution by Hutu's. 'Hotel Rwanda' did not delve into the complex history of the conflict, a history in which Hutus and Tutsis killed each other in turns culminating in a horrific genocide that saw a million Tutsis butchered. Paul Kagame, leader of Tutsi rebels, won a military victory and took office. Kagame later went to war with Congo for purely imperialistic purposes and presided over retributions killings of Hutu's in Rwanda. Yet the world only speaks of the Tutsi dead. Rwanda is not lectured to about learning from its past. If Rwanda was Israel American college campuses would gleefully scold about their inhumanities.

Last year Afro-American mayor and fellow Afro-American legislator of the city of Washington D.C. let loose a racist rant against Asian shopkeepers and Asians in DC. If one did not know the speaker was an Afro-American and listened to the remarks, given the history of USA, one would mistake it for a rant by a white racist. Al Sharpton and Malcolm X were established anti-semites. One protest organized (related to an unfortunate car accident caused by a Jewish driver) by Al Sharpton targeting Jews in Manhattan resulted in the death of a Jew. The Crown Heights riot tore apart Manhattan. Afro-Americans and Latinos (most of who are illegal immigrants) share a testy tenuous relationship in cities like L.A simply because Latino, since most are illegal, lack access to elected office unlike blacks.

Gandhi's India, Putin's Russia, De Gaulle's France, China and more countries indulge in naked imperialistic aggression against neighbors. Yet those countries are not the most scolded in UN. That dubious honor is reserved for Israel.

Do Israeli's and the Jews in general suffer from perpetual victimhood? Is holocaust a convenient 'victim card' that Israel plays? No and No. Never. Ask those questions to the small child who was killed in southern French town of Toulose by a jihadist because the child was Jewish. Ask those questions to the innocent Jews, including both parents of a toddler, who were mowed down in a Chabad in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists because they were Jews.

For those bleeding heart liberals who say "we condemn those acts but Palestine..." I say 'shame on you'. Not even Indians knew that Jews lived in Mumbai. That were targeted by Pakistani terrorists speaks of how hatred had hijacked a religion. If those same Jews in Mumbai injured any Muslim as retribution for Palestinian intifada would any sane minded person accept that as rationale. We would condemn it unequivocally.

The Jewish people, given their history of being persecuted over 2000 years, have long memories. Scattered around the globe and living amidst hatred they nurtured hope for living in Jerusalem saying 'Next year, in Jerusalem'. The holocaust gave rise to another slogan, 'never forget'. How can they forget? Can Israel afford not to be a hawk? Can Israel depend on international bodies in times of need? No and No.

When Israel pleaded to be left alone after the UN partition the Grand Mufti croaked 'we will push you into the Red sea'. No country, not even US, guaranteed Israel its right to exist. UN abandoned Israel after the partition vote. Having lost 6 million, with no cash coffers of friendly governments, nobody to buy ammunition from legally, surrounded by enemies Israel defended itself in a drama unparalleled in human history. As soon as the British left, as they always do, it was chaos. Armies from Syria, Jordan, Lebabon and Egypt descended on Israel from all sides barring the Red sea side. Golda Meir landed in New York with nothing but a handbag. Ms Meir told the Jews of New York "it is not your choice to decide whether or not we fight. It is ours and we will fight. But it is your choice whether we live or die because we need money without which we will die".

The war of 1967 is looked at as the most pivotal moment in Arab-Israeli history. Israel humiliated Egypt and Syria in a swift and decisive campaign that altered the maps and left a searing wound in the Arab psyche. Egypt and Syria were baying for Israel's blood and Israel lived under the scepter of war and total annihilation. Again, this was a campaign that US did not support or wish to happen. A Syrian paper published a cartoon of mountain of Jewish skulls leaving no doubt as to what would happen to a defeated Israel.

 Photo Courtesy : "The Six Day War" Michael Oren
Then in 1970 came 'Black September'. Yasser Arafat unleashed naked terrorism against Israeli athletes who were in Munich for the Olympics. It was terrorism on live relay. Jews were once again threatened on the soil of Germany. While the world ignored this heinous act Israel once again found itself alone battling for the lives of its beloved citizens. No one, not even the US, came to the rescue of those Israelite athletes. In a botched rescue attempt the athletes were killed and the Olympics proceeded on schedule without so much as a pause. Till today in no Olympics are those athletes mourned. If only they had been from any other country.

Today Bibi Netanyahu is reviled as a hawk. How can he not be one after losing his brother in Operation Entebbe. A plane carrying Israelis was hijacked by PLO terrorists. With 106 Israeli lives at stake Israel looked around for help and once again God's chosen people found themselves alone, all alone. In a daring rescue attempt, one for the history books, a commando operation liberated the hostages during which Yonathan Netanyahu was killed. Can Israel afford to rely on world opinion? Can Israel afford to 'forget'? Never. Not in a 1000 years must Israel forget. 

Would Sonia have signed a peace treaty with Prabhakaran? Would Putin shake hands with a Chechen leader? Would an Armenian shake hands with a Turkish leader? Yet, Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yasser Arafat and paid for it with his life at the hands of a murderous Israeli. 

When two sides fail to arrive at a negotiation what would they do? If they asked Yasser Arafat they would launch terrorist attacks on the other sides. The Camp David negotiations shepherded by Bill Clinton, in a desperate attempt to rescue his legacy post-Lewinsky, ended, according to most observers, only because of Arafat's intransigence. To cover up his failed talks Arafat launched the second intifada, a campaign of terror. Ehud Barak conceded more than what any Israeli had ever conceded and Arafat had almost everything he wanted at hand. Arafat who knows only to inflict terror and not to build a nation stomped out. Arafat is no Ben Gurion and both Israel and Palestine pay a price for that.

It was a rich irony for Arab states to move a motion in the UN to label Zionism as 'racism'. This by a bunch of people who run tin pot dictatorships with no semblance of human rights. Israel's ambassador to UN Chaim Herzog in a stirring speech 'hate, ignorance and evil' ripped apart the motion figuratively and literally, watch it here:

Time magazine in a shameful cover asked recently if Israel desired peace. The cover featured an Israeli lounging on a beach side. Israel has forged its destiny amidst an unprecedented sustained campaign of military assaults and terrorist attacks. That a magazine would take the picture of a man at a beach side and wonder if a nation desires peace shows the depths of depravity to which journalism plunged to. Would that same Time magazine, after 9/11, show Americans in revelry and ask "do Americans desire peace"? 

America became a staunch ally of Israel due to strategic real politick as Egypt became ensconced in the bosom of USSR. America stands by Israel for its own strategic reasons. Much is made of American aid to Israel. Pakistan practically blackmails America into giving billions in aid without which, Pakistani leaders claim, fundamentalists would run amuck and destroy America. Just last week America released $750 million to Egypt, a country which has no friendly intention toward America. But for America Saudi Arabia would have been overrun by Saddam. What America refused to do for Israel in 1948 it did for Muslims in Kosovo. 

Is it an accident that Israel has the largest number of companies listed in the Nasdaq after USA. The book 'Startup Nation' explores how Israel focused on development and human capital amidst the constant fear of death. Warren Buffet is investing in an Israelli company that is within distance of being annihilated by Hamas's rockets. Buffet reasons that he is investing in what the employees are capable of producing not in the brick and mortar that Hamas can destroy.

When Mitt Romney spoke of cultural differences in the context of how Israel and West Bank/Gaza develop the politically correct left wingers erupted in anger. Many were livid that Romney would compare Israel with strife torn, segregated, walled off West Bank. What the critics forgot was how immigrant Jews created Tel Aviv out of the swamps. Israel was nothing but swamps and vast tracts of land unused with pockets of habitation. Israel was built by hand kibbutz after kibbutz. If Palestinian leadership know nothing but terrorism is it Israel's problem?

A recent analysis of Israeli and  Palestinian textbooks found rampant stereotyping on both sides with the Palestinian textbook far outranking Israeli texts in preaching hatred. Egyptian textbooks practically inculcate a culture of hatred in children with outrageous texts. 

It is easier to find Jews in Israel who are sympathetic to Palestinian cause than to find a Palestinian who is critical of Yasser Arafat or Hamas. Many Jews in America are now increasingly critical of Israeli policies particularly on the settlements. 

All the above notwithstanding it would be in Israel's own interest to help Palestinians realize their own state. The settlement policies are human rights violations and territorial aggressions. It further messes up an already intractable problem. 

Just as Gandhi's India is militaristic and Christian West is guilty of every human rights violation on the textbook Israel too is not without blemishes. The blemishes of Israel should be seen as the blemishes of a nation and nothing more. Holding Jewish people everywhere as guilty is anti-semitism. Speaking of Israel's questionable acts as the acts of 'Jewish people' is as silly as speaking of America's militarism as the militarism of Christians. The holocaust is bigger than even the state of Israel. It has universal lessons for all.

Let us all study and learn from holocaust. I wish nothing but peace for the people of Palestine and Israel. May their God's give their leaders wisdom to achieve what has eluded generations for the past half century. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Pilgrimage To Auschwitz And The Tragic 'Uniqueness' of The Holocaust

I am not a religious person and therefore the idea of a pilgrimage has never appealed to me. My journey to Auschwitz should aptly be called 'pilgrimage'. It is a trite cliche to say that it is the journey that matters not the arriving. I experienced it as my flight was about to land in Krakow.

As the flight from Berlin entered the airspace of Poland I could see that it was chillier than Berlin. As we landed in Krakow I could see snow. Krakow airport looked like a suburban airport in India. I was now worried whether my light jacket would stand the cold. Then I worried if my baggage would be handled properly or would it be lost on a wintry rudimentary airport in Poland. I consoled myself that I can wear a knitted T-shirt underneath by thick cotton shirt with suede patches and top it off with my jacket to beat the cold.

I've watched so many movies and documentaries of Holocaust and read so many books. I remember how Meryl Streep, in 'Sophie's choice',  stands shivering in the cold on that notorious 'selection platform' in Auschwitz with two infants at hand. Then of course 'Schindler's list'. And then a wave of shame washed me over. Here I am, a healthy guy with credit cards and the ability to buy anything I want at any store in case of emergency. Even if my bags are lost its only an inconvenience for me. In the case of a dire necessity as American citizen I can walk into a US consulate. Millions of women, children, aged and the sick have been dragged to this city in box cars, families have been torn asunder at the whim of a Nazi thug at the platform. The victims were depersonalized, their bodies did not belong to them let alone their possessions. In that one moment I realized why a pilgrimage is a spiritual necessity. Whether one calls it a pilgrimage or a study tour the idea is that nothing, no amount of reading books or watching movies, can substitute for being in a place. Of course a study tour or pilgrimage is useless without the reading and watching prior to that. Only a mind that is pullulating with memories will find that aha moment at a place. Else one would be a mindless tourist sauntering through Auschwitz like one would stroll in a park or a museum.

When our tour guide pointed to a serene innocuous swimming pool like water and asked us "what do you think that is" most thought it was a swimming pool for the Nazis to relax. No. Auschwitz was insured by the company Allianz. As an insurance requirement, like today, Allianz stipulated that Auschwitz should have a pond like place to store water to fight any fire hazard. No book had written about that. Looking at the pond and the memory of millions who died a chill ran down my spine at the grotesque nature of human affairs.

Our tour guide made a penetrating observation that Auschwitz was not a concentration camp but an 'extermination' camp built to kill on an industrial scale. Auschwitz's central location played a key role. A map showed the places from which Jews (and others) were transported to Auschwitz from as far as Budapest.

These are insights that become readily available and would take several books to cultivate. That is why a history study tour is essential for students. Next on my agenda is to stand on Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma where Afro-Americans went on a march braving mounted police and police dogs. Several trips like that are pending.

I've often been confronted with the question of whether Holocaust is unique? Being from Tamil Nadu I am also often asked "would you not consider the killings of Sri Lankan Tamils as holocaust, is Rajapakse not Hitler". Of course a Rwandan could ask the same, so would somebody from Darfur. What about an Armenian? The massacre of a million Armenians is still not officially classified as 'genocide', let alone a holocaust. What is so 'unique' about the holocaust? Is it the numbers, a staggering 6 millions? Yes and no.

For any victim in an ethnic conflict his/her tragedy would be, in his/her perspective, the greatest tragedy to befall humanity. I've to respect how a victim feels. A Tamil mother grieving over a child blown to death or a wailing child who had lost both parents or Rwandan who was gang raped and mutilated or a Darfur native who is maimed would all be legitimate in feeling remote to a tragedy that befall a different people decades ago.

It is however the unpleasant duty of a historian to put things in perspective. Let us not forget that from Jaffna to Darfur to Rwanda the deaths and killings were part of and result of civil war with both sides being engaged in an armed conflict. That 6 million Jews were murdered like sheep without a single bullet being fired from their side is indeed unique. That they went to their deaths without a fight has been cruelly used to criticize them or even discredit the scale of the horror.

Syria is burning. UN report says that a million Syrians have crossed over to neighboring countries as refugees. However feeble maybe the efforts of the world in stopping the bloodshed it should be noted that at least the world bodies are 'trying' something and there are nations to open their doors to the refugees. A plaque at Dachau states bluntly "when the inmates at Dachau were liberated most went back to their home countries but the Jews had nowhere to go".

FDR's inaction to bomb Auschwitz is a hotly debated topic. Just last week a new book claims that if the transit lines to Auschwitz had been bombed and if the crematoriums had been bombed it still would not have saved many because allies had the ability to do those only late into the war when many had already been killed. It is 2013 and even today new evidences and new rationale is being investigated in the most complex savagery of humanity.

It is a modern shorthand to refer to any despicable ruler as 'Hitler'. Only Stalin, in reality, matched the cruelty and horrors of Hitler. It is impossible for any ruler of any country to inflict on any race the horrors that Hitler inflicted on humanity at large and at Jews in particular. Doctors, I mean doctors, non-chalantly indulged in medical experiments on Jews. Dr Mengele used to select twin children and subject them to blood curdling medical experiments. Doctors in Berlin thought it unnecessary to wonder how come so many body parts of so many children is turning up for analysis. Dr Mengele had a peaceful anonymous death and never was brought to justice.

Do concentration camps (or the modern internment camps) make up the holocaust? Historian Timothy Snyder in a book review of 4 books writes that it was 'not yet holocaust' referring to Warsaw Ghetto, the laws that prohibited Jews from practically living as human beings etc. In very penetrating analysis Snyder comments that Hitler's murderous scheme was able to take root only because Hitler, in every country he invaded, destroyed every civil institution. In Poland non-Jewish Poles had to be killed first. But in Lithuania which had already been ravaged by Stalin and lost its civil structures Hitler found willing allies in the puppet right wing regime. Close to a 150,000 jews were killed in the matter of a year with Lithuanians being eager to outdo the Nazis and prove themselves as valuable subjects of Nazi state. Death visited the jews in the form of the invader and aided by people who used to be neighbors.

The Nazi regime was an industrial killing machine that took the contours of a holocaust as it brought countries under its jackboot. Stalin had to content himself killing mostly Soviet citizens. Wholesale murder of the Czech or Poles was something even Stalin could not do. Jews were made to pay for the cost of cremating the murdered jews. Snyder writes "Nazi Germany was a special kind of state, determined not to monopolize but to mobilize violence".

Sick minds have caviled about whether it was indeed 6 million who died. Two weeks ago New York Times reported that what we thought we knew of holocaust and the camps is but a fraction of truth according to new evidence. Recent research, gruesomely detailed and verified, asserts that there were nearly 40,000 death camps. Way more than what was thought of.

Only when I planned my trip to go to concentration camps I realized a sobering fact. All the notorious camps were actually close to cities. Dachau is an hour away from Munich, Auschwitz and Birkenau are just 2 hours away from Krakow, Bergen-Belsen where Anne Frank and her sister were killed (not died) is 2 hours away from Berlin, Berlin itself had a concentration camp, Ravensbruck was 90 miles north of Berlin, Buchenwald was near Weimar. The NYT article concludes that given the number of camps it is impossible that people did not know what was going on. At Dachau I saw a photograph of stunned German citizens, dragged to the the camp by allied army liberators, looking over emaciated corpses and the ovens. Were the people of Dachau truly ignorant? I don't think so.

When communist jackboot replaced the Nazi boot in Eastern Europe covering Auschwitz talk of jewish victims was muted as Stalin's regime wanted to speak only of communist victims. That, after nearly 65 years since the camps were liberated, we are still learning and unearthing evidence gives us a perspective of the tragic uniqueness of holocaust. This new knowledge is not an incremental addition to the existing knowledge but it is a paradigm shift that practically enlarged the scope of what was already a too big to digest horror.

Holocaust remains a unique tragedy unparalleled before or after in history. Let us not, juts to rob the Jewish people and Israel, deny this uniqueness and nor shall we wish it upon any people for ages to come.

The one remaining question that I promised to answer was about the lessons from Holocaust that Israel learned. In another perversely unique manner no other tragedy that befall any people draws the question "did they learn from it?". No other people who have suffered are being asked "how different are you from your tormentors". Whenever I speak of holocaust to most people the invariable question is "what about the suffering of Palestine". People are more eager to hold Israel and the Jewish people accountable for todays mess all the more so because of holocaust. In this aspect too, sadly, Israel and the Jewish people are treated uniquely. I'll answer them in my next blog.