Monday, February 11, 2013

Good News: Comparisons to Nazi Germany Are Exaggerated


In the Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers, former heads of the Shin Bet make some rather serious charges. One says that Israel is “making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering.” Ok, that seems demonstrable—but when another says that Israel has become “a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II," I don’t know.

With all due respect to former Shin Bet chiefs, who I concede are better informed than I am, comparisons of Israeli behavior to that of the Nazis seem to go a bit far. It’s time to confront this exaggeration head on, so here is a partial list of ways in which Israel is not like Nazi Germany:

*Throughout its history, Nazi Germany killed millions of innocent people; Israel has killed only, say, fifty thousand innocent Palestinians, Lebanese, and Egyptians-- tops.

*For the sake of deterrence, Nazi Germany would kill ten innocent people, randomly selected, for every one of its own people killed by the resistance. By contrast, Israeli retaliation is less random; indeed, it doesn’t kill even the family members of Palestinian militants who attack Israelis, but merely demolishes their homes.

*Nazi Germany had contempt for all Jews and black people, most of the rest of the European peoples and societies, and the United States. By contrast, while Israel has contempt for Muslims, black people and most European states (the goyim), it has contempt only for some Jews (e.g. Jewish critics of Israel), and not (by and large) for the United States, at least if you don’t count its black President.

*Nazi Germany ruthlessly cracked down on all internal dissent and protest; Israel’s recent pressures on dissenters and other attacks on civil liberties are not as extensive.

*Even before the Holocaust, Nazi Germany passed many laws excluding Jews from all normal participation in their country. True, Israel discriminates in many ways against Arabs, but not as extensively.

*In Nazi Germany, there was no democracy. In Israel, despite the increasing anti-democratic trends, if you don't count the Arabs democracy is still generally intact—especially for Jewish Israelis who support the government’s policies towards the Palestinians.

No doubt additional comparisons could be made, but the point should be clear: Nazi Germany was much worse than Israel. What a relief!


Gene Schulman said...

Surely, Jerry, you are being ironic. At least I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Zionism had the same national-romantic roots as Nazism. Martin Buber esp was a great advocate of “Jewish blood” , which he tried to deprecate and live down after 1945, unsuccessfully. Among myriad examples.

Zionism viewed the ascent of Nazism in Germany as a confirmation of its views, and cooperated in various ways with the regime, above all in breaking the world-wide, Jewish-led boycott of Germany, with the Transfer Agreement. Transfer brought funds and immigrants to Palestine, and sold German goods from Palestine.

As it became practicable, Zionism developed a policy of attacking civilians, which the Haganah learned from Orde Wingate in raids on Arab villages during the Arab revolt in the 1930s. The Haganah terrorized civilians into flight in 1947-48, killed on sight Palestinians returning to their homes after 1948, and committed wholesale massacres like Qibya in 1953, and Kfar Qassim in 1956, exhibiting wanton disregard of civilian life. All that of course was a warm-up for actions post-1967.

Israel and its Hebrew Zionist culture are a secularization of pre-modern, religious anti-gentilism, the late Israel Shahak and others argued. Zionism is not just a matter of Jews vs Arabs in Palestine, but Jews vs gentiles. Today most of Israeli society is full of hatred for Arabs, for Muslims, for Jews who oppose it, for European and American critics, for anyone who stands in its way. Zionism is not nationalism, but Jewish race doctrine, it is argued. US organized Jewish society is run by these same attitudes. These attitudes also inform the Jewish left, in its truncated critique of “the occupation”, “law and rights” discourse, “solutions” discourse, etc, which conceal Zionism.

Israel’s influence on the US is the chief source of Islamophobia, of the “clash of civilizations”, of 9/11 and the US police state, the 2003 Iraq invasion, the “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq in the 1990s, and was a key factor in the first Gulf war. Zionism has turned western Asia into the eastern front of the US empire, site of its most depraved deeds and ideologies, comparable to the eastern front of Nazi Germany in WW2–with nuclear weapons in the mix.

Jerome Slater said...

Thanks Gene: Indeed, ironic. Actually, I would say I aimed for acid and bitter satire.

Colin Wright said...

Nice piece.

I read it at Mondoweiss, where most of the readers seem to have missed point.

Indeed, Israel is not as bad as Nazi Germany. Nor was the Green River Killer as bad as Tamerlane.

Jerome Slater said...

I noticed. And thanks for leaving this comment.

Louis Williams said...

Slater completely misses the point. The comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany is not quantitative, but very much qualitative. When a soldier can shoot and kill a 22 year old woman standing in the doorway of her house, and not be reprimanded -- when a 65 year old man can be beaten half to death at a checkpoint -- these smack of Nazi behaviour by a nation that should have learnt from its own suffering

Rafs said...

"By contrast, Israeli retaliation is less random; indeed, it doesn’t kill even the family members of Palestinian militants who attack Israelis, but merely demolishes their homes."

Doesn't this contradict your own research? What to make of the al-Dalou family massacre, of the Dahiya Doctrine, and so forth?

Jerome Slater said...

I should have clarified it. What I meant was that after a Palestinian militant launches a suicide attack against Israeli civilians, the Israelis don't round up the family members and shoot them: they "merely" blow up their homes. My satirical point was that while what the Nazis did was worse--much worse--what the Israelis do are also war crimes: specifically the legally and morally defined crime of deliberately attacking innocent noncombatants or their crucial institutions and infrastructures (like homes)

That said, if it can be shown that the al-Dalou attack was a deliberate and planned coldblooded attack on a civilian home known to contain dozens of civilians, with the specific purpose of deterring future suicide attacks, then it would indeed be undermining the distinction between "ordinary" war crimes and the beyond-history crimes of the Nazis.

I may be wrong, but I think the investigations by the Goldstone commission and subsequent human rights organizations stopped well short of reaching the most draconic conclusion.

You also mention the Dahiya doctrine, which I believe was formulated after Cast Lead. If that were to be actually implemented, the unthinkable analogy between Israeli and Nazi behavior would certainly become more thinkable.

But that hasn't happened, at least not yet. And it is instructive that the short-lived Israeli attack on Gaza last November was far less destructive than Cast Lead. Still a war crime, however.

Rafs said...

The Dahiya Doctrine was made public in the Israeli press in 2008, some months before Cast Lead, but it was put into practice (according to the person who made it public, an Israeli general) during the 2006 war in Lebanon. As for the Goldstone Report, I think it concludes that Israel's targeting of civilians *was* intentional. But I'm doubtful now, since even you, who must be better acquainted with it than me, are not sure about it. But anyway, there are other instances of Israeli attacks on large numbers of civilians (the 1996 Qana massacre, for example) that can't be thought of as anything other than intentional.

Gail said...

As a child of Holocaust survivors, I ask this...was your column on Israel being unlike Nazi Germany written in a tongue and cheek manner? In the last weeks I have heard of little Palestinian girls getting their hair pulled by a grown adult on a bus and told to leave the country, a middle aged Palestinian Israeli women beaten by twenty-something Jewish girls at a bus stop. Farmland destroyed and worse. If not in the final solution stage of Nazi Germany Israel is certainly in 1939 purgatory or at best, replaying the Pogroms of Russia. So what if the state has killed less, they are still killing and often for poor 'defense reasons'. The Israeli state is well armed and can protect itself against any real antisemitic aggression but still allows itself to be traumatized by the past and as you said in your article: What went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process (2001)Political Science Quarterly 116-2, I think a little tough love is in order- for both Israeli and Palestinian Leadership. They are both keeping us all hostage to extreme Nationalism.

Jerome Slater said...

Gail: Yes, it was definitely meant to be satirical, the point of which was that while it was true that Israel's crimes did not compare to those of the Nazis, that should be of no comfort to anyone, let alone a state that was supposed to be "a light unto the nations."