Comparing Israel, the Holocaust and Nazi Germany
How the Zionist movement tries to have it both ways
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism,
‘Contemporary examples of antisemitism … could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to: ….Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.’
The IHRA was based on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism [WDA], which was junked in 2013 by the Europe Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, after vehement opposition to its conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The WDA has resurfaced, like the undead in a Dracula horror movie, in the guise of the IHRA.
So if were to accuse Israeli Jews who chant ‘Death to the Arabs’ on demonstrations of being no different from Nazi demonstrators who chanted ‘death to the Jews’ 80 years ago, then according to the IHRA, this too is a clear example of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Notwithstanding this, Zionists and supporters of Israel are allowed to claim that the Holocaust justifies Israel’s apartheid practices. Only last week Baroness Deech sent a letter to the Jewish Chronicle concerning a new national Holocaust memorial and learning centre which it is being proposed should be built next to Parliament. Costing £50m you might think that Deech was enthusiastic in welcoming this project? Not a bit of it. What was the point of such a centre if it had nothing to say about Israel? Deech whinged that:
“We already have in this country about 10 Holocaust memorials. None has prevented the recent rise in antisemitism and attempts to delegitimise Israel.”
Note how the purpose of learning about the Holocaust is not to prevent racism or anti-Semitism. It is to prevent ‘delegitimisation’ i.e. criticism of Israel as a Jewish state.
Deech wondered ‘why some students, who have studied the Holocaust at school, seem not to have made the connection between that event, and Jewish people and their state today.” A good question. Perhaps the reasons might lie in the fact that many people find it hard to reconcile the Nazi state’s pre-1941 discrimination against German Jews with Israel’s discrimination against Palestinians? The good Baroness explained that “you have to improve the relationship between Holocaust education and attitudes to Jewish people and to Israel.”
In other words Holocaust ‘education’ should concern itself not with historical understanding of the Holocaust and why it happened but with propaganda aimed at supporting the Israeli state. A state which has two separate legal systems — one for Jewish settlers and another for Palestinians on the West Bank. A state which seeks to ethnically cleanse not simply Palestinians living in Jerusalem but Arabs and Bedouin within Israel itself. According to Deech any Holocaust memorial should be modelled on Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust propaganda museum which has a picture of the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem prominently displayed. As Tom Segev noted, its purpose being to ensure that ‘the visitor is left to conclude that there is much in common between the Nazis’ plan to destroy the Jews and the Arabs’ enmity to Israel.’ [The Seventh Million p.425]
The purpose of Holocaust education is not so much to foster an understanding of the iniquities of racism and the singling out of an ethnic group for blame or scapegoating but rather to help bolster support for a state based upon the same principles of ethno-religious discrimination as Nazi Germany.
The article below was originally published on February 10, 2017 by The Clarion, which describes itself as ‘an unofficial magazine by Labour Party and Momentum activists. It would fairer to describe Clarion as the magazine and web journal of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, a Zionist ‘Trotskyist’ group and its sympathisers. Its Editorial Board includes Rhea Wolfson of the Jewish Labour Movement, who was elected to Labour’s National Executive Committee as part of the grassroots slate of 6.
Are Comparisons Between Israel and the Nazis Anti-Semitic?
According to Shami Chakrabarti in her Report on Racism and Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party:
In day -to-day political debate , it is always incendiary to compare the actions of Jewish people or institutions anywhere in the world to those of Hitler or the Nazis or to the perpetration of the Holocaust. Indeed such remarks can only be intended to be incendiary rather than persuasive.’
Shami Chakrabarti knew nothing about Zionism or the background to comparisons between Zionism and the Nazi era. What has been compared is not the treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust, because clearly Israel isn’t attempting to exterminate millions of Palestinians, (though there are powerful elements, especially amongst religious Zionists who would like to see their physical elimination) but three things:
i. The ideological congruence between Nazi attitudes to the Jews from 1933 onwards to the Jews and Zionist attitudes to Palestinians as manifested in Israeli Apartheid today.
ii. The fact that sections of the Zionist community in Israel have adopted a genocidal attitude towards the Palestinians. For example in 2010 Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur wrote a book ‘Torat Hameleh’ [The King’s Torah] which explained that:
The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’ applies only “to a Jew who kills a Jew,” write Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks on them “curb their evil inclination,” while babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us.”
iii. The repeated comparison by Zionists of the Palestinians with the Nazis and those who perpetrated the Holocaust. This has been most evident in the portrayal of the Mufti of Jerusalem, who was a Nazi collaborator and war criminal, as representative of the Palestinians. In his address to the World Zionist Congress in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu laid the blame for the Holocaust at the feet of the Mufti not Hitler (see Rewriting the Holocaust — Jacobin).
The Zionist suggestion that the Mufti of Jerusalem was representative of the Palestinians and that opposition to Zionism is therefore motivated by anti-Semitism, is an example of the hypocrisy of Zionism. The Mufti was never elected by the Palestinians. It was the ardently Zionist British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel who appointed Haj al Amin Husseini as Grand Mufti in 1920 despite him coming fourth in the elections for the position, However this kind of double standard is perfectly acceptable to the Deeches of this world.
As the article below explains, the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is worse than idiocy. It is based on a combination of ignorance and malevolence. The 31 governments which agreed to this definition include the states of Hungary, Poland, Croatia and the Baltic republics, all of which have manifested differing degrees of anti-Semitism and racism towards refugees. Like most such governments they combine anti-Semitism and support for Zionism.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is designed to suppress free speech and close down debate. In Israel the use of the Holocaust as a metaphor and an insult are legion, precisely because the Holocaust has helped shape, in the distorted context of settler colonialism, Israel’s Jewish self-identity.
For example on March 10th in Ha’aretz Carolina Landsmann described how a new piece of legislation from Israel’s Knesset, a bill which sought to ban the Muslim call to prayer on the grounds of ‘noise’, brought to mind what the Zionist historian, David Bankier had said when describing how ‘Nazi propaganda deliberately fostered a sense of collective guilt among the Germans. Starting in 1942, the Nazis provided hints about what was happening to the Jews so that the Germans would feel they had crossed the bounds of morality along with their leaders.’
What we have is a situation where the Holocaust is repeatedly used to justify Zionist crimes against the Palestinians but any attempt to reverse the equation and show how the depiction and scapegoating of the Palestinian minority of Israel bears a similarity to the treatment of the Jews of Germany is ‘anti-Semitic’.
These are the double standards of Zionism and its Tory apologists — unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn has also signed up to this Establishment hypocrisy.
By Tony Greenstein, Brighton Momentum activist
(This is a reply to Michael Chessum’s explanation of why he voted to remove Jackie Walker as vice chair of the Momentum steering committee. It does not reflect the view of the Clarion editors or most of our contributors, but we publish it in the interests of debate on the left.)
The present split in Momentum can be traced back to the night of the 3rd October when Jon Lansman moved to remove Jackie Walker from her post as Vice-Chair of Momentum. The pretext for this were comments that she had been secretly recorded making at a Jewish Labour Movement ‘training session’ on anti-Semitism at the last Labour Party conference. It is clear, in hindsight, that Jackie had been the victim of a political ‘sting’ by the Jewish Labour Movement, which is the emanation of the Israeli state inside the Labour Party.
None of the comments Jackie made were in the least anti-Semitic but a climate was created in which anything she said about anti-Semitism or the Holocaust would be twisted by the JLM into an allegation of ‘anti-Semitism’.
We saw how this was done in the third programme of Al Jazeera’s ‘The Lobby’ when Joan Ryan MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel concocted an ‘anti-Semitic’ incident at their stall when questioned by Jean Fitzpatrick as to what their ‘support’ for 2 States in Israel/Palestine meant in practice. In practice, as she found out, not a lot. It is mere rhetoric designed to cover up for their support for the existing status quo and the military occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Jackie’s ‘anti-Semitic’ statements that led to her removal as Momentum Vice-Chair were:
1. ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day were shared by all people who had experienced genocide’.
2. ‘I haven’t heard any definition of anti-Semitism that I could work with’
It is difficult to understand how either statement could be said to be anti-Semitic. They are expressions of opinion. Whether or not they are true is immaterial. It was as if Jackie had been urging a Pharaonic cull of the Jewish first born. The sincerity of her main antagonist, the JLM, can be judged by its silence over Israeli Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog’s effusive welcome for the election of Donald Trump and the anti-Semites he has brought in his wake in the form of Steve Bannon and the Alt-Right.(1)
Of course the Zionist lobby and their friends in the media have an unerring ability to create a synthetic symphony of outrage about ‘anti-Semitism’ out of nothing. All the newspapers — from the Tory tabloids to the Guardian were eager to damn Jackie. Instead of defending her, Jon Lansman threw her to the wolves. Stephen Pollard of the ZionistJewish Chronicle reported that Lansman had ‘reached the end of his tether”. Lansman informed the Independent that “I spoke to Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement this morning, he’s very upset and I can understand that — I work closely with Jeremy…’
I can certainly believe that Lansman works very closely with Newmark, a man who works closely with the Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, whose previous job as spokesperson for Benjamin Netanyahu included justifying the murder of hundreds of children and two thousand civilians in Gaza two years ago.
One would have expected, as a matter of course, that Jill Mountford of the AWL and Mike Chessum, who is politically close to them, to have opposed Jackie’s removal as Momentum Vice Chair, even if they didn’t agree with her comments. In agreeing to the Lansman witch-hunt back in October, they opened the door to Lansman’s support for the witch-hunt of the AWL and his coup in Momentum itself. You cannot be on both sides of a witch-hunt.
Despite their protestations it is obvious that both Chessum and Mountford voted to remove Jackie Walker as Momentum’s Vice Chair because they deemed her remarks anti-Semitic. There is no other conclusion. All the stuff about ‘losing confidence’ is a mere circumlocution.
The Holocaust and Israel
The Holocaust has played a formative role in the creation of Israel’s own self image and its ideological legitimation. Is Chessum unaware of the role the ship the Exodus played in 1946 in opening the gates of Palestine and its use of Jewish refugees from displaced person’s camps to open the gates of Palestine to Jewish settler immigration?
Holocaust imagery pervades Israeli political dialogue.(2) The Holocaust has played a key role in the justification for a Jewish ethno-supremacist state. Where else is there a state, which defines itself on the basis of an imagined ethnicity of part of its population (Jewish) rather than on all those who reside there? A fictive nation (Jewish) that crosses every national boundary and language?
We often hear that Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. True but of course irrelevant. Britain is a Christian state but all its citizens, Christian and non-Christian are equal. In Israel being Jewish means that you possess privileges that non-Jews do not have and this is justified by reference to the trauma of the Holocaust.
Idith Zertal, one of Israel’s revisionist historians(3), wrote about how ‘there has not been a war in Israel, from 1948 till… October 2000, that has not been perceived, defined and conceptualised in terms of the Holocaust…. Auschwitz is not a past event but a threatening present and a constant option.’(4) The Holocaust has been consciously utilised in order to defend its actions against the Palestinians and to ward off criticism.
Examples of how the Holocaust has been used are legion. Menachem Begin, Prime Minister during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and siege of Beirut, compared Yassir Arafat to Hitler in his bunker. According to Begin the alternative to Israel’s genocidal war was ‘Auschwitz’. Israeli Labour’s Foreign Minister, Abba Eban told the UN that “I do not exaggerate when I say that it [the June 1967 map] has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz.” The Green Line between Israel and the West Bank is referred to in Israel as the ‘Auschwitz border’. Netanyahu told the 2015 World Zionist Congress that it was the Palestinian Grand Mufti who was responsible for Hitler’s Final Solution. Netanyahu has repeatedly compared Iran to Nazi Germany.
As Tom Segev, a critical Israeli historian explained, the only image of a Palestinian in Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum ‘(is) a photo featured prominently on a wall depicting the Mufti sieg heiling a group of Nazi storm troopers’. Its purpose being to ensure that ‘the visitor is left to conclude that there is much in common between the Nazis’ plan to destroy the Jews and the Arabs’ enmity to Israel.’(5) Effigies of Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, were dressed in Nazi uniform by his political opponents as a prelude to his assassination.
As Zertal persuasively argues, the Israeli state has effectively nationalised the memory of the Holocaust and in the process ‘it directly excluded the direct bearers of this memory — some quarter of a million Holocaust survivors who had immigrated to Israel.’(6) This is why you have the terrible phenomenon of Israel, a rich and prosperous state, bristling with state of the art weaponry including nuclear weapons, condemning the actual survivors of the Holocaust to live out their life in penury as it keeps them in dire poverty despite having received reparations to provide them with a comfortable old age.(7)
Zionism has defined the Holocaust as something exclusive and unique to the Jews because of its ideological usefulness in Israel’s propaganda wars. Elie Wiesel held that to compare the Holocaust with the sufferings of others was a “betrayal of Jewish history”.(8) In a debate with Sybil Milton, the Senior Resident Historian at the US Holocaust Museum, Yehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem argued that the Nazis only attempted to annihilate one people, the Jews: “Roma were not Jews, therefore there was no need to murder all of them.”(9) To this day the US Holocaust Museum refuses to include the Roma victims of the Holocaust.
If you go to the Holocaust Memorial Day site and click on Holocaust you will be taken to a page that says ‘Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazis attempted to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews.’ There is no mention that the Holocaust began in 1939 with the extermination of the Disabled, the T4 Euthanasia program. The Roma and Gypsies are not mentioned either. If you click Nazi Persecution you will come to a page which begins ‘Singling out Jews for complete annihilation in the Holocaust was not the full extent of Nazi persecution.’ Although it goes on to mention other groups, they do this in the context of the ‘persecution of disabled people and gay people’. They do not mention that they too were exterminated. There is no mention of the extermination of 10 million Africans in the Belgian Congo or the estimated 14 million Africans in the slave trade.
This is why when Jackie Walker made criticisms of how the Holocaust is presented and used or how anti-Semitism is defined it has a direct bearing on how, in this country, Israel’s propaganda war is conducted.
3. That group of historians in the 1980’s onwards who began to challenge the foundational myths of Israel, most notably about the flight of the refugees in 1948. Until then it had been the consensus that they had voluntarily left at the urging of the Arab leaders whereas it is now accepted that they left forcibly and as a result of massacres
4. Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, p.4, Idith Zertal, Cambridge University Press, 2011.
5. Tom Segev, The Seventh Million, p.425,Hill and Wang, 1991, USA
6. Zertal, p.5
7. See for example Israel is Waiting for Its Holocaust Survivors to Die, Ha’aretz 6.2.13. Ironically my quoting of this article formed part of my investigation hearing as the Labour Party Compliance Unit assumed that this must be some wicked invention by anti-Zionists seeking to libel the Israeli state.
8. Wiesel, Against Silence, p.146, Schocken Books, 1988
9. The History Teacher, Vol. 25, №4., August 1992 pp. 513–521