The pernicious cycle of Holocaust denial

On Holocaust Remembrance Day we may ask: What is one to make of people who compare Israel to a regime that planned and implemented a genocide without parallel?  Impulsively one is tempted to snort and dismiss the lot as radical hotheads. But look at the company:

Ronnie Kasrils, a member of the South African government, has told Parliament:

The methods of Israel are ruthless like the Nazis.

Speaking of “Brooklyn-born settlers,” Tom Paulin, an Oxford University poet, told the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper:

I think that the settlers should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis.

The late Israeli professor of chemistry Israel Shahak (himself a Holocaust survivor) once said:

Any Jew who denies the Palestinians their humanity is a Jewish Nazi.

British MP Oona King has told her constituents:

Conditions in Gaza and the acts of Israel are comparable to the Warsaw Ghetto and the acts of the Nazis.

There’s also a variant group of collaboration mongers, which maintains that Zionist leaders were Nazi sympathizers who either cooperated with Hitler or would have liked to. One of them is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In his book “The Secret Relationship between Nazism and Zionism” he asserts:

Only 890,000 Jews were killed by Hitler, and they were victims of a joint Zionist-Nazi plot.

Norman Finkelstein, in his book “Beyond Chutzpah,” is even more diligent:

In late 1940 the dissident right-wing Zionist organization, ‘IZL in Israel’ sought an agreement with the Nazis on the basis of a collusion of interests… for the purpose of the re-establishment of the Jewish state…on a national and totalitarian basis, allied with the German Reich…

There seems no end to this sober and often-elite group that puts Israel on par with the Nazi regime. Are the Israel-haters for real? Must we take people seriously when they regard Israeli Jews as criminal persecutors without parallel? Where are the deeds and methods of Hitler’s henchmen replicated in Gaza and the West Bank?

Here Israel-haters disappoint. Their jibes at Israel are either wild and unsupported, or the particulars (never mind the poisoned waters whence they where fished) never come benchmarked against the Nazi record.

Weak on detail, Israel haters are strong on propositions. How could Jews, you may ask them, possibly have turned into Nazis? Pressed, they’d explain that Jews who were deployed to commando jobs in the death camps were traumatized to the point where they aspired to become like the murderers they were forced to assist. They would then leap a generation or more to Israelis of today. The trauma of the Holocaust generation, they’d have to argue, rubbed off on the psyche of modern Israelis, who then spun Nazi methods on hapless Palestinians.

So it ends up with a type of Nazi-Jew go-round, a variant of the media’s famed “cycle of violence.” Nazis and Jews spin around a psycho-cycle that propels vicious-turned Jews at Palestinians, who are mere bystanders. Jew = Nazi. What seemed like nothing but light nonsense before seems all dark purpose now.

The alternative explanation would be Holocaust denial.

When they state that Israelis are Nazis they polish up Hitler’s record while tarnishing Israel’s. Eventually, there comes a point where like is like and Mr. Kasrils can say that Israel’s methods are ruthless as the Nazis’ final solution.

But can it really be that these people share a bed with Sheikh Adel Bin Ahmad, of the Jiddah mosque?

[The Jews] disseminate everywhere the lie of the Holocaust and claim that Hitler killed six million Jews in gas chambers. Although this is pure falsehood, they have made it part of their history…

When the Israel-hater equates Jew with Nazi is he, like Sheikh Ahmad, denying the Holocaust?

The meaning of a word is the point of departure. “Genocide” involves the mass extermination of a people, of a certain race or nation. It’s admitted in the West, though not widely so in the Muslim world, that the Nazis committed genocide. Both the scale of their work, and the in which they went about it, shall count when I revert to Israel-haters.

Hitler’s genocide contained four elements, three meticulously planned and implemented, and the fourth left to spontaneity: Working Jews to death, impromptu unbridled slaughter, execution by mobile killing squads, and extermination by asphyxiation.

Numbers are enough to expose the Israel-hater. The world Jewish population fell by six million between 1939 and 1945. Palestinian numbers, on the other hand, rose by three million between 1968 (the year after Israel took control of the territories) and 2010. The first statistic conveys genocide while the second conveys rapid population growth.

Hence, to put Nazi and Israeli methods on a level is to deny three sets of facts: the Holocaust elements, the Jewish death-toll, and the contradiction between population growth and genocide. But Israel-haters, ever ingenious, will protest: “Sheikh Ahmad, or even David Irving, may have stuck his neck out, but when did we, in so many words, deny the Holocaust?”

Their protest, a fair one, merits attention.

The first thing is to recall that much of the the Arab world believes the Holocaust to be a Jewish conspiracy, a fable nefariously concocted with  the intention of exploiting the world emotionally and monetarily. For the Western palate this would be a bit rich — unless you’re a Noam Chomsky or a Norman Finkelstein, or even a Harold Pinter. People like you or I may, however, be tempted to buy into a more subtle approach: The vendor obliges with a sleight-of-hand play on words. By using “treatment” or “persecution,” the Israel-hater can turn the Holocaust into a commonplace. And having done so, he can turn it around and accuse Israeli Jews of similar deeds.

Professor Andrew Wilkie of Nuffield College Oxford will take up the thread. After turning down an Israeli student for a place in his College, he explained:

I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians… (emphasis added)

Note the word “treatment” – flat and non-lethal. Black people under apartheid were treated appallingly. Via that word Wilkie conveys that Jews were treated by the Nazis as second-class citizens: denied equal rights and opportunities; deprived of the basics; imprisoned without trial; worked long hours for low pay; subjected to curfews, check points and more; coped with cramped conditions and bad food, the odd ring-leader jailed or eliminated. The word “treatment” carries no trace of the elements of Nazi genocide. By and large, people treated appallingly live to tell the tale.

Germans behaving badly? The word 'treatment' carries no trace of the elements of Nazi genocide.
Germans behaving badly? The word 'treatment' carries no trace of the elements of Nazi genocide.

So the Israel-hater contrives to reduce the Nazi genocide to an apartheid-level crime. He has now primed us to apply that same crime to Israeli Jews for their “appalling treatment” of Palestinians. After their experience under Nazis, Jews turned on the world’s new victims, and treated them appallingly.

Hail the method of Israel-haters. And hail the Jewish component that, by equating Israeli and Nazi, slip into denying what happened to their grandparents.

Denial of the Andrew Wilkie mode is more pernicious than open denial because it irradiates hatred from within. More, it beckons others to partake of the hatred, unlike the denial of Sheikh Ahmad, which remains on one plane. The Sheikh can preach that the Holocaust never happened, but because he never alters his focus, we do not for a moment feel the slightest bond with him.

With Wilkie, Israelis are not the direct object of hatred, but stand for treating people badly.  So they offer a bridge for us to cross. One might feel half inclined to join them, for after all they hate Israeli Jews for good reason. If they had no reason they would not be enlightened, and one would feel no bond with them. But since they express hatred via human sympathy for the victims we are drawn to Wilkie, Kasrils, and co. Their hatred of Israel is well clothed – almost enlightened. The disgust of Wilkie has a glow.

About the Author
The writer is a prolific author of novels and non-fiction, essayist and commentator on ‘Enemies of Zion’ which happens also to be the title of his latest book. His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; Contributor to ‘War by other means: Israel and its detractors’, 2012; Enemies of Zion, (for publication 2017); and Balaam’s curse ( a novel in progress)