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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

The young and the senseless

Ignorance rather than malice could why one fifth of young Americans think the Holocaust is a "myth," and another 30 percent aren't sure, writes Ilya Somin on Reason.


Only 7 percent of Americans agree the Holocaust never happened, according to a new Economist/YouGov poll. But the number soars for those ages 18-29: Eight percent "strongly agree" and 12 percent "tend to agree" it's a myth.


Young Americans also are more likely (23 percent) than their elders to say the Holocaust was “exaggerated,” and that Jews have “too much power in America” (28 percent).


Somin thinks people who aren't sure what "Holocaust" refers to might choose "tend to agree" on the theory that they'd know about it if it really happened. And young people know a lot less history, politics and economics than their elders.


But they've been told that what counts is who's "privileged" and who's "marginalized," who's white or "white adjacent" and who's not. The Holocaust confuses the narrative, so it must be false or exaggerated.


Most college students support the chant "from the river to the sea," writes Ron E. Hassner, a Berkeley political science professor, who commissioned a national survey. But only 47 percent of those who embrace the slogan were able to name the river and the sea.


"Some of the alternative answers were the Nile and the Euphrates, the Caribbean, the Dead Sea (which is a lake) and the Atlantic," he writes in From Which River to Which Sea?, "Asked in what decade Israelis and Palestinians had signed the Oslo Accords, more than a quarter of the chant’s supporters claimed that no such peace agreements had ever been signed."


A Latino engineering student . . . reported "definitely" supporting "from the river to the sea" because "Palestinians and Israelis should live in two separate countries, side by side." Shown on a map of the region that a Palestinian state would stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, leaving no room for Israel, he downgraded his enthusiasm for the mantra to "probably not." Of the 80 students who saw the map, 75% similarly changed their view.

"I would not be at all surprised were surveys looking at claims Israelis are European colonizers or comparing civil and religious freedom across the Middle East to find similar levels of ignorance, and an equivalent moderation of views when respondents were presented with relevant history and context, writes Jonathan H. Adler in Reason.


Instead of trying to regulate such chants, he writes, universities should "double down on their core mission: Educating their students and providing a forum for the presentation and examination of ideas."

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