Imagine that your parents and the majority of everyone they knew had all been systematically been massacred by a particular sect when you were a kid. Imagine you grew up in a family that was utterly traumatised by this massacre and was determined to avoid anything similar ever happening again. Imagine that growing up with that collective memory and grief had messed you up and you became an abuser towards others in an attempt to secure what was left of your family. Imagine that loads of people rightly protested this but deliberately taunted you by comparing you to the people who had committed that massacre, traumatising you over and over, choosing words and images to make it hurt as much as possible, claiming it was justified to “trigger” (that’s the word, isn’t it?) you over and over again because you were a bad person who just deserves it.
And now imagine that you had cousins and friends who had also seen the generation before them massacred, but who didn’t agree with your actions. Imagine that they also had to deal with the fallout from your abusive acts by being constantly subjected to comments, photos, and images comparing you, their friend or relative, to the sect who had systematically massacred everyone they had known and loved as well. Who had nothing to do with any of it but just had to put up with this torrent of horrible imagery and hate, aimed at them, their friends, and their families. And any time they objected, were told that no, it was ok, they were just trying to deliberately traumatise your friend, because he was a bad person and it’s ok to try to emotionally torture people with their past if you don’t like them.
An obvious analogy given my choice of lead photo but one worth making. This is what I have to live with every time Israel does something bad. Out come the swastikas, out come the pictures of Hitler, and the photos, omg, photos of graphic images of dead Jews set side by side with images of whatever havoc Israel has wreaked this time. I’ve refused to attend demonstrations I would otherwise have gone to and I’ve blocked and banned and just abandoned parts of the internet, but the determination of people to provide me with a constant reminder that some people just hate Jews so much they want to see them dead knows no bounds. It’s a deliberate, systematic attempt to make people relive an experience that left millions of Jews dead and a wound on the collective Jewish memory that hasn’t even begun to heal.
And you can tell me that it’s ok, you were just aiming your comments at the Israeli political and military elite that are making such terrible decisions that you want to express your anger over. Except that, the Israeli political and military elite are all Jewish. I know that, and you know that. That’s why you made deliberate comparisons to the Holocaust in the first place. Such a comment would be totally meaningless if the Israeli elite you were referring to happened to be Druze. You’re using someone’s ethnic or religious history against them to wound and to hurt them and everyone who agrees with them and shares that history. That in itself is a pretty awful thing to do, even if you think it’s ok because hey, they don’t care about Palestinians, right? But you’re also distressing every other Jew who has to have this incredibly traumatic episode of their history dredged up every time Israel’s in the news. Do you honestly believe that by doing so you will bring any of those who support the occupation over to your side, Palestinian flag a-flying?
Knowingly trying to hurt someone by using words and pictures that you know will particularly upset them is direct discrimination. Hurting an entire group of people because you’re so incandescently angry at a particular set of them is indirect discrimination. In short, comparing Jews, any Jews, to the Nazis is antisemitic and it’s wrong. Please stop.
To close, I cried my way through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last year and bought a book they’ve published called, “50 Questions on Antisemitism”, of which two are below. I really, sincerely hope that, if you’ve been making such comparisons in the past and think the people who objected were just being a bit touchy or trying to cover up for Israel’s actions, you reconsider. Criticising Israel is not antisemitic by any means, but criticising the Jewish state by deliberately using comparisons to the systematic murder of Jews is.
45. Does Israel treat the Palestinians the same as the Nazis treated the Jews?
Not only in the Arab world, but also in debates and discussions in Europe and the United States, comparisons are often made between the fate of the Jews during World War II and the fate of the Palestinians today. “What the Germans did to the Jews, Israel is now doing to the Palestinians” is a remark frequently uttered by people who sympathize with the Palestinian cause. Although the fate of many Palestinians is tragic, this comparison falls short on a number of key points. Israel and the Palestinians are involved in a territorial conflict in which Israel has the military advantage and there seems to be no end in sight. Yet, Israel is not trying to murder all the Palestinians. Such an Endlösung or “Final Solution” of the Palestinian question is certainly not the case. In the past three to four years, there have been several thousand Palestinian victims to mourn, but this is different than willfully planning the systematic murder of the Palestinian people. Besides, there have also been many Israeli victims of terrorism, The Israeli Army has taken harsh measures in the past years. Many houses of family members of Palestinians who have carried out (suicide) bombings have been razed to the ground. However, there are no concentration camps or extermination camps in the West Bank and Gaza. There are no Einsatzgruppen (Death Squads) methodically or indiscriminately executing Palestinians only because they are Palestinians. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians also has a very different origin then the persecution of the Jews during World War II. The conflict in the Middle East is essentially a struggle about the power over a certain region. Two groups – Israelis and Palestinians – lay claim to the same territory and both defend their claim based on their history and religion. They are unable to agree on possible ways to divide this area, not even after several attempts at negotiation with outside mediation. The National Socialists in Germany, however, had no political or territorial conflict with the Jews of Europe. Racism and antisemitism inspired them and this in turn led to the Holocaust.
46. Is it antisemitic to compare Jews to Nazis?
At pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Europe in the past years, comparisons have often been drawn between Jews and Nazis and between the Star of David (a symbol representing Israel) and the Swastika (the symbol of National Socialism). In May 2002, “Sharon = Hitler” and “Sharon > Hitler” was written on countless banners displayed during pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Are these comparisons antisemitic? It is, of course, possible to compare anything and everything to each other, but a legitimate comparison is about similarities and differences. The comparison of Jews and Nazis not only falls short on crucial points, it is the ultimate affront to victims of the Holocaust and their families — likening the victim with their executioner. Moreover, because a distinction is rarely made between Jews and Israelis — Israel collectively representing “the Jew” — such comparisons are antisemitic. Many non-Jews, as well as other people who do not support the policies of the Israeli government experience the comparison — or better the equating – of Jews with Nazis as shocking, hurtful, and obscene. These comparisons make any further dialogue impossible. As such, they are a sad symbol of the hopelessness of the present situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
If you are Jewish, please consider supporting Yachad, a group working to mobilise British Jewry to support a two state solution and a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Thankyou.