The Gaza war and the new Holocaust revisionism

If Gaza is like the Warsaw Ghetto, then the Warsaw Ghetto was like Gaza – and the true meaning of genocide in general, and the Holocaust in particular, is lost.

Demonstrators hold a placard and wave Israeli flags during a rally in support of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip (photo credit: REUTERS)
Demonstrators hold a placard and wave Israeli flags during a rally in support of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Who would have thought that Israel’s assault on Gaza would have led not only to emergency meetings of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, but also of the Diaspora Affairs Committee – where the rise of anti-Semitism, and even the potential for another genocide against European Jewry, was openly discussed? Central to this is the accusation of genocide, chanted against the Jewish state by anti-Israel protesters.
This represents a massive left-wing-inspired assault on the Holocaust; a new form of Holocaust revisionism.
There is a paradoxical double danger here, in that the Holocaust is denied and/or distorted – and in the process, the way is opened for another Holocaust.
While many civilian deaths may be occurring in the Gaza conflict, Israel’s self-defensive actions in Operation Protective Edge do not equate to genocide in any way, shape or form. To argue that they are is a form of Holocaust denial. If Gaza is like the Warsaw Ghetto, the Warsaw Ghetto was like Gaza – and the true meaning of genocide in general, and the Holocaust in particular, is lost.
This distorted use and meaning of language has dangerous implications. By redefining what genocide is to suit their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda, these demonstrators mangle what genocide was, and in doing so open the way for genocide to be repeated. The way Israel’s current “genocide” is liberally invoked makes Israel’s self-defense immoral, while genocide against Israel, and her supporters and co-religionists, becomes moral and legitimate.
For if Israel is “Nazi,” “an apartheid state” and “genocidal,” then aren’t new, dangerous levels of such actions made more legitimate and likely to resonate more widely? Is the logical climax of the demonization of Israel, so removed from reality, now coming to fruition? The ironic danger here is that those who defame Israel with the label of genocide are the ones who are actually advocating genocide; such as the anti-Israel mob in the German cities of Dortmund and Frankfurt who shouted, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” or those in Canada who roared, “Hitler should finish you off.” It is like the Hebrew saying “Haposel bemumo posel,” he who says something critical of others is actually talking about himself. History has taught that those who call for the death of Jews should be taken at face value.
Indeed, since the Hamas-Gaza war began in July, Jews across the world have been physically assaulted, with their attackers often throwing in epithets that “Hitler was right.”
In what had the makings of a contemporary pogrom, in the French capital of Paris, Jews were left trapped in a synagogue as pro-Palestinian protesters stormed over, calling for blood. Has anyone stopped to wonder what would have happened to the men, women and children who locked themselves inside, had the demonstrators succeeded in breaking through? The precedent for physical violence was clearly set on July 23 at a friendly football match in Austria between Israel’s Maccabi Haifa and the French club Lille, which had to be abandoned after pro-Palestinian protesters jumped on to the field and attacked the Israeli players. The sense of legitimacy in violence was out in the open for all to see.
Anti-Semitism can no longer hide behind a face of supposed legitimate criticism of Israel.
Fear has returned as a feature of Jewish life in Europe and beyond. Jews may not be sitting on their suitcases (yet), but they are waiting for the next inevitable physical assault. Jewish life in the Diaspora is not as free today as it was before this war began.
It is of course not 1938, and the destruction of European and/or world Jewry is neither imminent nor inevitable.
However, we see in Turkey the ramifications of the hateful language being used by a head of state, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leveling the genocide invective at Israel. Many of the protesters and attackers of Jews and Israelis in Europe hail from Turkish backgrounds, suggesting a nexus between the rhetoric of political leadership with street-level violence, as the Turkish diaspora appears to be hearing Erdogan’s message loud and clear.
It is unlikely that Erdogan and his intolerant supporters in the Turkish diaspora appreciate the irony that their country, which accuses Israel of a fictitious genocide, not only committed genocide against the Armenians but to this day refuses to acknowledge its crime.
AS CONTEMPORARY anti-Semitism scales new heights, the right of Jews to live in their countries is being called into question.
This happened in an open letter in the pro-government Turkish daily Yeni Akit addressed to the country’s chief rabbi, which said, “You came here after being banished from Spain. You have lived comfortably among us for 500 years and gotten rich at our expense.
Is this your gratitude – killing Muslims? Erdogan, demand that the community leader apologizes.”
As Benjamin Albalas, president of the Greek Jewish community observed, “The attitude in Europe is promoting delegitimization of Israel… and is a first step toward the intimidation of the Jews’ right to live in their own home countries.” If genocide remains a long-term nightmare that will hopefully never come to pass, is expulsion something likely in the medium term? We also see this anti-Israel-driven anti-Semitism making further inroads in European parliamentary circles, with the Hungarian right-wing Jobbik party.
The far Right usually pursues an anti-Muslim agenda in Europe rather than being focused on Israel, but in Eastern and Central Europe, Jews hold a special place for hatemongers. When in the wake of the Gaza war Jobbik joined the Left’s battle cry against Israel by calling for a boycott of the Jewish state, we saw the spreading of an alliance from far Left to far Right.
Jobbik and their ultra-nationalist ilk, which have a dubious approach to the history of World War II, are now – in the context of Israel – the ones engaging in the language and actions that Jews experienced at that nadir in history. Given their countries’ roles in the Holocaust, Central and Eastern European ultra-nationalists have a vested interest in rewriting the history of the Holocaust. This “Israel = genocide” campaign gives them another means to do so, and in the process spreads the Holocaust-denying net from Left to Right, joined by some local Arab and Islamic communities, united by this new anti-Israel agenda.
All of this inappropriately applied Holocaust imagery is, as Yad Vashem put it, a desecration of the memory of the Holocaust. This desecration is itself a form of anti-Semitism. As British Jewish writer Howard Jacobson said of the Warsaw Ghetto analogy, “It is to wound Jews in their recent and most anguished history, and to punish them with their own grief. Its aim is a sort of retrospective retribution, canceling out all debts of guilt and sorrow. It is as though, by a reversal of the usual laws of cause and effect, Jewish actions of today prove that Jews had it coming to them yesterday… “Instead of saying the Holocaust didn’t happen, the modern, sophisticated denier accepts the event in all its terrible enormity, only to accuse the Jews of trying to profit from it, either in the form of moral blackmail or downright territorial theft. According to this thinking, the Jews have betrayed the Holocaust and become unworthy of it, the true heirs to their suffering being the Palestinians.”
It seems that not even the memory of the genocide of European Jewry is sacrosanct on the continent which allowed it to happen.
This Holocaust revisionism and concomitant genocidal incitement is not limited to Europe, with every part of the Jewish Diaspora affected. Incredulously, we see how the language of the Holocaust is even being used to deny Jews their right to own and mourn the Holocaust, while simultaneously creating an environment in which another Holocaust can be rationalized.
As we ponder this, we should not forget that the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Jews – and it is telling that this is something the anti-Israel protesters remain deafeningly silent about.
It is time for governments to recognize anti-Semitism for what it is, and act against it – before the wheels of history start turning more quickly.
The writer is an associate professor in the Center for Citizenship and Globalization at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and a documentary filmmaker at Twitter: @dannyb_m