Last Saturday, the Guardian published a letter that compared Israel to the Nazis; described the Palestinian Authority as “Palestinian Quislings”; called on Britain to recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv; and supported a boycott of Israeli goods.
Before informing the readers that the images from Gaza “reminded” them “of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto”, the 78 signatories felt compelled to say: “We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin”, somehow establishing a connection between what they said (Israel = Nazi) and who they were (Jews).
This is not the first time the Guardian has given voice to Jews proud to be ashamed to be Jewish. In 2002, it published a letter in which 45 Jewish intellectuals denounced the Jewish state.
The latest letter raises, as do its predecessors, three questions: the substance of the accusations levelled against Israel; whether being Jewish makes such opinions more compelling or more legitimate; and what purpose these individuals serve, by linking their Jewish credentials to the radical ideas they endorse.
On the substance, the signatories compare Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Nazis. This is not new, of course, but its repetition does not make it truer. In Auschwitz, there were around 30,000 daily deaths — all unarmed, starved prisoners. In Gaza, since the start of Israel’s offensive, there have been fewer than 50 deaths a day, up to 70 percent of them Hamas fighters. Nazis took joy at massacring civilians. Israelis give warning via phone to civilians. Nazis starved their victims for months before destroying the Ghetto.Israel sends humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicines every day. Intelligent people should be able to see the difference and refrain from such comparisons. Are our friends of Jewish origins stupid or malicious? Judge for yourself.
But the effect is to demonise Israel by comparing it with Nazism, the quintessential evil of modern European history.
And, in the process, it ends up trivializing the Holocaust as well, much like Holocaust denial. If only 50 people a day died in the Warsaw Ghetto while the Nazis were resupplying their hapless Jewish victims with food and medicine, one cannot fault the Nazis too much. It also follows, logically, that Jews trying to turn that history into a paradigm of evil are exaggerating – for political goals perhaps? You see where this can go.
Anyone with a sense of history should know better than to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. Even in Zimbabwe things are worse than Gaza. Does that “remind” them of the Warsaw Ghetto? Or do people “of Jewish origin” evoke such comparisons only when Israel is involved?
Second, is being Jewish relevant? Identity is no substitute for knowledge and expertise; religious identity does not confer authority to speak on anything. So why the invocation of “Jewish origin”? Because the Jews are the gatekeepers and once they break a taboo, others can cross that line. If you are Jewish, what you say cannot be labelled as antisemitic. If you are going to trivialize the Holocaust and demonise Israel, it therefore helps being Jewish — ask Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry. Had he been an Episcopalian, no one would ever have heard of him. Because he is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, his lurid thesis made him a “courageous whistleblower”. The same with the Guardian’s Jewish letter writers.
It follows that these proclamations of “Jewish origin” serve an agenda: they offer an alibi to antisemites. Shielded behind such proclamations, our enemies can call for our destruction, protected by a Jewish certificate of good behaviour that shows that what they are saying is no worse than what certain people “of Jewish origin” are thinking.