Who's a Nazi? You're a Nazi . . .

August 21, 2014

Amid all the bewildering coverage of the Gaza conflict, what fascinates and appals me is the way the Nazi Holocaust is used and misrepresented by protagonists on either "side" of the argument.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and darling of the American Holocaust establishment, in tandem with attention-seeking rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, placed a provocative advertisement in several US and UK newspapers, branding Hamas as "child-killers". In his angry response to the London Times's refusal to carry the ad, on the grounds that it was "too strong" and inflammatory, Boteach described Hamas fighters as "genocidal terrorists" who, he claims, had been accurately characterised by Wiesel, whom he called "the living face of the Holocaust".

While many Holocaust-conscious Jews - perhaps the vast majority of JC readers - might broadly agree with the tenor of Wiesel's ad, there are equally many who would draw the opposite conclusion. For example, over 30 Holocaust survivors and 260 children and descendants of survivors, mostly based in the United States, signed a letter attacking Wiesel for his "abuse of our history" (ie the Holocaust) "to promote blatant falsehoods" … "to justify the unjustifiable", namely "the murder of nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children." "Nothing", they added, "can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities...[or]depriving people of electricity and water".

Deploying their "authority" as Holocaust survivors, they also condemned the "racist dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached fever-pitch" and, alarmingly, extreme-right-wing Israelis wearing "neo-Nazi insignia" on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Elsewhere, in letters pages, cartoons, across the unpatrolled internet and blogosphere, and even implicitly in several newspaper articles and radio reports, there have been clear depictions of Israelis/Palestinians (especially, though not exclusively of the Hamas persuasion) as Nazis. Holocaust imagery, unbridled and irresponsible, abounds on all sides of the divide, the supposed "lessons" of the Holocaust being harnessed to a particular ideology.

This blanket description is grotesquely inaccurate

In a kind of vicious psychological circle, we tend to view the Holocaust through the anachronistic prism of present values, beliefs and concerns, while in turn evaluating our present crises and dilemmas through the distorting and often mythic lens of a freakish and imperfectly remembered past.

It frequently amuses, bemuses and outrages me that it is often those very people who insist on the "incomparable uniqueness" of the Holocaust – thus imprisoning the whole historical "event" within the ghettoised and highly-charged realm of "Jewish experience" - who invoke the Holocaust whenever they attempt to score points in discussions on the continuing Israel-Palestine nightmare.

The blanket description, by their adversaries, of Israeli soldiers and their political leaders as Nazis, is as grotesquely inapt as it is inaccurate. Equally, on the other side, so much of the politicking, opportunism and exploitation of the Shoah by some of the self-appointed guardians of Holocaust memory is, quite simply, an insult to those millions who were murdered.

In my view, the portrayal (usually an ideological rant) of any party to the current Gaza conflict in Holocaust-related terms is a wholly unacceptable dance on the graves of the Jewish dead. They certainly did not die so that, 70 years later, different groups can justify killing the innocent, whether Jewish or non-Jewish.

The third edition of Ronnie Landau's work The Nazi Holocaust: Its History and Meaning will be published by IB Tauris in September

Last updated: 12:23pm, August 21 2014