Guest post: Why comparing Israel to the Nazis is always anti-Semitic
A guest post from one of Bagehot’s predecessors:
The boundaries between criticism of Israel, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, such as Israel’s borders, are disputed. Some believe that denying Israel’s right to exist, alone among the world’s states, or boycotting Israeli goods while ignoring other human rights abusers, that they themselves are completely anti-Semitic; others consider those legitimate political positions untainted by prejudice. Regardless of where you draw this line, however, one particular feature of Israel’s deterrence should fall on the wrong side of it. That is how some tend to compare Israel with the Nazis, or the Holocaust and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, a movement sometimes called “Holocaust reversal”. With his theory that Hitler was a Zionist, Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, indirectly revived this group today, leading to its ban chaotic but finally with the Labor Party (already plagued by a rash of anti-Semitic outbursts). Elsewhere it is used in pictures of Israeli soldiers as heirs to the SS, exporting the Star of David with swastikas and poisonous diatribes in the Arab world, and, these days, throughout the West.
There are three main reasons why Hitler should be considered included in discussions about Israel being anti-Semitic. First, and obviously, even in the worst possible interpretation of what Israel did to the Palestinians, it is not very similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews. The scale and purpose are completely different, in ways so obvious they shouldn’t need spelling out. Israel’s abuses against the Palestinians occur within a territorial and political conflict, although it is one in which, without a doubt, great and unspeakable crimes have been committed; the holocaust was an attempt at ethnic extermination in which 6m people were murdered. I once heard a well-educated man who should have known lament that the Jews, after what happened to them in the second world war, had more or less proceeded to do the same thing to him the Palestinians, “only without. killing them.” The industrial killing, however, was not an incidental part of it. To omit equality exaggerates Israel’s guilt and renders the crimes of Nazism routine. .
Given this – and given that there are other historical comparisons that are far more relevant to Israeli policy – it is reasonable to assume that the likes of Mr. Livingstone choose this one at least partly because it is painful. After all, although it does not have all the merits as a diagnostic tool, its potential to offend is enormous. Anyone struggling to understand why this is so should think how they would feel if their acquaintances constantly compared their misfortunes to the worst. that ever happened to them. My bad day at the office—it’s just like when your mother died in agony, isn’t it? Why would someone make such a comparison? Remember that most Jews in the world who were killed in the Holocaust have relatives, and often, for older Jews, very close relatives. For them it is not an abstract talking point or a rhetorical crutch.
Finally, and most importantly, the comparison is untenable because it suggests a kind of cosmic karma. “The Jews”, it is often thought, have failed to learn the moral lesson of Nazism and are therefore uniquely flawed. In addition, however, in an irresponsible, retrospective sense – since the Jews killed by the Nazis died before Israel even existed – the motif implies that the Holocaust was almost a form of rough justice. Yes, yes, the Jews had a bad time under the Nazis, runs the twisted, unspoken argument, but look what they did to the Palestinians. So, you know, history and the Jews are a form of rapture. Right?