Some thousand people hold banners and torches as they gather in the Maria Square in Stockholm on November 9, 2000, to protest against racism on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht.
(photo credit: BERTIL ERICSON / SCANPIX SWEDEN / AFP)
This week during a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony in Amsterdam, MK Haneen Zoabi devoted a 1,400-word speech to likening contemporary Israel to Nazi Germany of the 1930s. But before we address her outrageous comments, let’s revisit history in order to understand precisely what happened on the night of November 9, 1938.
Kristallnacht was not an isolated incident. Rather it was a culmination of years of incitement and legal restrictions instituted by the Hitler regime against Germany’s Jews, who made up less than 1 percent of the population.
Almost immediately upon assuming the chancellorship of Germany in 1933, Adolf Hitler took action against the Jews. Jewish-owned shops were boycotted; kosher butchering was outlawed; restrictions against Jewish children were introduced in public schools.
In 1935, the Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws, which deprived Jews of German citizenship. Jews were prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or related blood.” Ancillary ordinances to the laws disenfranchised Jews and deprived them of most political rights. By 1936, Jews were prohibited from participating in parliamentary elections, and signs reading “Jews not Welcome” appeared in cities and towns across Germany.
In the first half of 1938, additional laws were passed restricting Jewish economic activity and occupational opportunities. The definition “Jewish” was racial, not religious.
Even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers with a Jewish grandparent were considered “Jewish.”
In October, 1938, 17,000 Jews with Polish citizenship, many of whom had been living in Germany for decades, were arrested and relocated across the Polish border.
Among the deportees was Zindel Grynspan, whose store and family’s possessions were confiscated. Grynspan’s 17-year-old son, Herschel, who was living in Paris at the time, received word of the expulsion and lashed out. He assassinated Ernst vom Rath, an official at the Germany Embassy in Paris.
In response to the assassination, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called for an organized assault upon Jewish homes, businesses and places of worship by members of Nazi Party and its supporters.
The ensuing violence, which began on November 9 and lasted into the morning of November 10, left at least 91 Jews massacred and about 30,000 confined to concentration camps. “Aryanization” of Jewish-owned businesses and property accelerated after the pogrom.
This is a horrific story of how one of Europe’s most culturally and scientifically advanced societies was gradually seized by a murderous Jew-hatred, leading to the largest genocide in history. Many historians would argue that this was a unique historical event.
Zoabi, however, would like the world to believe that Israel is the reincarnation of Nazi Germany; the Jewish state has its own version of the Nuremberg Laws; and Palestinians are the modern-day Jews. In Zoabi’s telling of history, the remnants of European Jewry who survived the Holocaust and returned to their historic homeland were in reality colonialists who engaged in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous, peace-loving Palestinians.
Palestinian political leadership was a victim of international colonialist powers, not an intransigent, Jew-hating entity that supported the Nazi regime, demanded Jews fleeing the Holocaust be returned to Europe to be massacred; and rejected any compromise, including the internationally endorsed 1947 UN Partition Plan, she claims.
The “occupation” is a result of Israeli imperialism, not the outcome of another failed Arab offensive by Egypt, Jordan and Syria, with the full support of Palestinians, designed to destroy Israel and massacre its Jews, she claims.
Similarly, in recent weeks Palestinian men and women are being shot in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Beersheba, Hebron and Gush Etzion for expressing their political opinions, not because they are trying to stab or run over innocent Israelis, according to her view.
Admittedly, Zoabi’s view of history and current events is distorted. But it is important that people like her have the political freedom to speak their mind. She is living proof that even under the most trying conditions, the State of Israel struggles to uphold the democratic principles that provide politicians such as Zoabi with parliamentary immunity. This reality is the best answer to Zoabi’s Kristallnacht comparisons.