From The Holocaust To Gaza
by Tom Bunzel
– A Massive Lesson That Taught Me How We All Need To Be Aware Of Our Own Bias
Healing The Holocaust?
In 2008, when I was going through a very low period, a life coach and friend, Freeman Michaels, listened to my dark view of the world, which I justified with my parents’ experiences in WWII, and he suggested that perhaps my “path” was to help “heal the Holocaust.” At the time, I was appalled by the suggestion. I felt strongly that my parents’ story was extremely powerful and needed to be heard, and it was certainly not up to me to “heal.” Later, in my work with Michael Jeffreys we discussed the work of Eckhart Tolle, and his insight that the victim “story” can have just as powerful a hold on one’s perceptual reality as the more common notion of the Ego as self-aggrandizing and achievement oriented.
This time it landed, and I began to notice the price I had paid for using my parents’ experiences as a filter for my entire life; it made me realize why I had felt so alienated and separate for such a long time. Gradually I healed, found community, continued to live “normally” and moved on. A great deal has happened for me in the past six years, including writing and covering conferences in the area of spirituality for Collective Evolution, so when the Gaza conflict flared up, I tried to remain conscious of how I might be triggered and affected. One aspect as an American that stunned me was how fortunate and yet insulated we are from such savagery—except of course when our soldiers come home from one of our wars. At one point I noticed myself blissfully changing the channel from the carnage on CNN to watch a tennis match from DC. But of course I watched both the media coverage and the threads on social media, and because of my background, I became more and more troubled by the hatred expressed on both sides.
How Differing Views Led To The Loss Of A Friend
I might add at this point that my father, who survived the war in a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, was given a trip to Israel when he retired in 1980. When he returned he expressed a profound disillusionment with the Israelis’ treatment of the Arabs living within their borders, saying that he was appalled that those who had suffered such mistreatment could now mistreat others so badly. So it was from this perspective that the other night I tried to engage some pro-Palestinian people on social media—specifically the opinions expressed by Bernhard Guenther, a film maker and speaker whose documentaries I had seen and whose work I generally appreciated. Among other aspects, Bernhard is well versed and quotes the work of Gurdjieff, whose ideas I also greatly admire.
In my overture I suggested to Bernhard that at this point, from the Palestinian perspective, it would seem that the existence of Israel is a “done deal” – they aren’t going anywhere. From a realistic perspective, rather than spending millions on armaments to destroy Israel, wouldn’t it make more sense to build infrastructure, schools, hospitals and businesses to improve their own lives? I was immediately attacked for my Zionist brainwashing and I can even understand that if you are made to live in squalor in a very densely confined area with such limited resources, you are angry and see it as an occupation and will do whatever you can for liberation.
Bernhard and his folks insisted I read a long diatribe on the history of the region. I reviewed it and suggested that perhaps the “story” might be dropped and that the entire situation be viewed as closely as possible from the present. At this point I was derided for being someone who reads and follows Eckhart Tolle, which is true. But let me summarize their position as I understand it. I am familiar with it to the extent that it is also a big part of David Icke’s compelling work, in which he blames Zionists as being part of a worldwide control system; when I first heard that it triggered me too—because “Zionist” is a code word for dirty Jew.
But here is the story as I understand it. Wealthy Jewish bankers wanted a Jewish homeland (they were true Zionists) and when Germany was winning World War I, they promised Britain (which controlled Palestine) that if Britain promised them a Jewish state, then America would enter the war and Germany would be defeated. The understanding between Britain and Baron von Rothschild is known as the Balfour Declaration. I knew of this vaguely before I read Bernhard’s version. When Germany was defeated it was humiliated by the peace terms and went through a horrible economic depression; of course the knowledge of the Balfour incident gave Hitler ammunition for his anti-Semitism and we know that story quite well. So the displacement of the Palestinians, which took place after WWII, is the result of a Zionist effort going back to the 19th century, and that is justification for wanting Israel gone today. But as I suggested – Israelis are not going to be moved to Miami beach. They have achieved an economic miracle in the desert and their neighbors might be better served by following their lead; massive aid has been promised for such an effort on numerous occasions, as I understand it.
At this point I was thoroughly denounced as a Zionist dupe by Bernhard and his friends. I went and read his material again, which suggested that much of what we know of Germany’s role in WWII has been distorted. Of course as a German himself, Bernhard is also ultra-sensitive to these issues and accused me of betraying my biases. This did trigger me, and brought up my background to Bernhard, and asked him to clarify what has been distorted. Of course this explained my “conditioning” to them completely, and I was banned from the conversation and unfriended on Facebook.
Last night I went through their material again and found a video by a documentarian who suggested that claims of gas chambers at Auschwitz were “exaggerated” and even “unproven.” This infuriated me, because in fact my mother was selected for slave labor at Auschwitz while her parents were gassed. So I wanted an answer to my question: “What happened to my grandparents?” Did they drop mysteriously off the planet around 1943? I knew what happened to them from my mother’s memoirs and from a precise oral history which came from my parents. The oral tradition seems quite compelling to me—it transcends the bull I see on the Internet by a wide margin—especially when I heard it first hand from my own parents. They weren’t burning coal at Auschwitz. And those bodies they showed bulldozed on the newsreels after WWII weren’t mannequins from a department store.
A Full-Circle Perspective From My Mother’s Memoir
Before my mother’s death she dedicated herself to following such Holocaust deniers and revisionists to keep the FACTS alive. I have published her memoir for all who are interested; in it she describes how the Germans killed not just Jews, but all dissidents including gypsies and homosexuals. Her story is not so much about the horrors which were well documented–but rather of the psychological toll such an experience takes and how difficult it is to return to “normal” life. So hers is “the story” as I understand it, and the story I have worked through with the help of my teachers.
And NOW, I can see that from the Palestinian perspective, certainly, the situation in Gaza resembles what happened during WWII. What we have is an ancient clash of belief systems that can only be reconciled by good faith on both sides. I am still deeply disturbed to have been “unfriended” and insulted by people whom I approached in good faith and whose position I wanted to understand. At the same time I cannot help but be greatly disappointed by an inability to have an honest dialog on these issues precisely because I have been open to dropping my own sense of outrage, only to find that the other sides’ sense of outrage inevitably trumps mine. I am writing in the hope that those who live in the blessed freedom and relative peace here can avoid the pitfalls on both sides and figure out pragmatic solutions to the problems we face.
But I will also say that there is such a thing as relative truth—and I will end with this story.
When my mother was selected to work at Auschwitz, she dropped her eyeglasses and they broke. She fumbled her way into the crowded barracks, where she shared a wooden “bunk” with eight others, and found an old pair of glasses held together by string, which allowed her to work, survive and eventually give birth to me. The story is in her memoirs.
Years later I found a wonderful therapist with whom to work through my demons, and whose father had also been a survivor. Interestingly from the perspective of this piece, she also worked in the Arab territories as a trauma counselor on a volunteer basis. When she helped me with my anxiety via Skype (she was over there) as I sat in fear on my couch in the comfort of my living room, I could hear bombs and gunshots going off behind her over her microphone.
When we worked through my issues in her office, however, and I told her my mother’s story of the glasses, she told me that he had taken her daughter to Auschwitz, and on the “tour” they had found an old pair of glasses in the dirt. That is a moment I will never forget. It still gives me chills and goosebumps, because it speaks to the reality of a much wider perspective which we will all need to take if humanity is to survive, much less evolve, into a truly conscious life form.
From my current perspective, all we have is the present moment in which to live honorably and productively; I am sorry if my admiration for Eckhart Tolle and his ilk overrides my desire to be “right.”
I urge those who participate online in forums like this to examine their own biases as they would those of others, and to work consciously toward a different quality of life, for the short time that we’re “here.”