A new book by former attorney general John Ashcroft is raising some eyebrows — not for its content, which details Ashcroft’s career in the years before, during and after the attacks of September 11, 2001, but for its title, “Never Again,” which, to the Jewish ear, sounds more than a little familiar.
While the phrase “Never Again” was in use before World War II — it was the title of several early American films — it has, for Jews, become shorthand for an ongoing commitment to remembering the Holocaust. The phrase was first popularized as a Jewish rallying cry by militant Zionist leader Meir Kahane in his 1972 book “Never Again!: A Program for Survival.” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, used the phrase as the title of his 2003 book “Never Again?: The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.”
The title of Ashcroft’s book “came from the hours after 9/11,” said Juleanna Glover-Weiss, a senior adviser with Ashcroft’s consulting firm. “The president looked at him and said, ‘Don’t ever let this happen again.’” The book makes no mention of the phrase’s history, and when asked whether Ashcroft had it in mind when crafting his title, Glover-Weiss said, “This came solely out of those hours after 9/11.”
Foxman, for one, isn’t troubled. “We, the Jewish people, do not have a patent on that phrase,” he told the Forward. “‘Never again’ certainly applies in terms of 9/11. Americans were targeted because of who they are and what they are. It’s not genocide, but it was enhanced by hate, bigotry and prejudice.” Foxman said that when his book was published, he was told, “‘This belongs to Meir Kahane, and this belongs to Holocaust survivors.’ With all due respect,” he said, “that’s nonsense.”