Terra Incognita: Why do antisemites call people ‘Nazis’?

Antisemitism is being mainstreamed, along with a whitewashing and watering down of the Holocaust and Nazi crimes.

Demonstrators gather ahead of clashes with riot police outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, Netherlands (photo credit: REUTERS)
Demonstrators gather ahead of clashes with riot police outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, Netherlands
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Protesters in Rotterdam recently shouted “cancer Jews” during a rally against the Dutch government banning Turkish pro-government politicians from making speeches. At the same time Turkish politicians labeled the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and accused the country of “Nazi behavior.”
It would have been interesting to query the protesters shouting anti-Jewish slogans and who at the same time would no doubt agree that Holland is a “Nazi” country. They represent an increasing convergence of those who label their enemies “Nazis” while at the same time holding anti-Jewish and Nazi-like views.
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad wrote a blog post last year in which he called a political rival, Najib Razak, “little Goebbels,” a reference to the Nazi propaganda minister. What does Mahathir think of Jews? In a 2003 speech to the Organization of the Islamic Conference he said: “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews... the Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews... they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone.” This speech received a standing ovation according to the BBC.
Dutch riot police break up demonstration in Rotterdom in support of Turkish president Erdogan (Reuters)
There are other examples of people who express anti-Jewish views, views often akin to Nazi theories, and then accuse others of being “Nazis.” Palestinian media, politicians, pro-Palestinian supporters and cartoonists frequently compare Israel to the Nazis. For instance a 2009 cartoon by Carlos Latuff showed an Israeli tank about to crush Gaza, with the shadow of the tank being a swastika.
But if the swastika is so offensive to Palestinians and Israelis are behaving “like Nazis,” and Zionism “collaborated with Nazism,” as some pro-Palestinian commentators have claimed, why are swastikas used as graffiti in Palestinian neighborhoods to taunt Israelis? Why was a swastika flag removed from the village of Beit Ummar several times in 2014? How can a person read a cartoon in the morning showing an IDF soldier with a swastika and then go draw a swastika in the afternoon and wave it at IDF soldiers? Either you support the Nazis or you think Israel is like the Nazis. But they want it both ways.
Spray-paint swastikas and call your enemies “Hitler.”
Former Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad infamously denied the Holocaust, claiming in 2002 that there were no gas chambers, that it was “Zionist propaganda” and a “myth.” He claimed his denial was a success, breaching “a taboo topic that no one in the West allowed to be heard.” But then Iran has hosted several Holocaust denial cartoon contests in which Israelis are compared to Nazis. Yet if the Holocaust never happened, why is “Nazi” the ultimate epithet? Why do people call their political opponents “Goebbels” and then make a Goebbels- like speeches about Jews running the world? The reason for the contradiction is that “Nazi” has become a universalized pejorative.
As the message of the Holocaust became universal, so its perpetrators became universal.
US President Donald Trump has been compared to Hitler; a man serving soup in the TV show Seinfeld was a “soup Nazi”; and even in Israel, ultra-Orthodox protesters often call the police “Nazis.” A well-known Israeli professor coined the term “Judeo-Nazi.”
Everyone is called “fascist” and “nazi” as the ultimate insult. In this generalization the term loses its specific meaning.
Then the next step is that people who actually hold Nazi-like views, especially involving hatred of Jews, adopt the Nazi label against their enemies. This means protesters see no contradiction between claiming the Dutch government is a “Nazi remnant” and shouting “Jews are a cancer.”
In the third stage of the contradiction there is Holocaust denial and the claim that Israel is a Nazi state. This is why Mein Kampf is sold in Arab countries by the same people who look at Latuff cartoons and say “Israel is the Nazis.” This is why in the UK there have been a series of incidents, including an event at the House of Lords where “Israel was reportedly compared to the terror group Islamic State and Jews were blamed for the Holocaust.”
People decreasingly see a contradiction between hating Jews and castigating others as Nazis. They see no contradiction between claiming Israel is a Nazi country while denying the Holocaust. They obscure their hatred with excuses and distractions, claiming that “of course people condemn antisemitism, but...,” or trying to challenge the term “antisemitism” by claiming Arabs are also semites. They even claim that the swastika is an “ancient religious symbol.”
Mass media often ignores the incredibly common anti-Jewish sentiments in the Middle East or among migrants to Europe.
They don’t want to ask why crowds chant anti-Jewish slogans, why Jews are blamed for everything, accused of being both communists and allied to the far Right. Hamas and the former Malaysian prime minister, for instance, both accuse Jews of being behind communism and socialism.
Accusing Jews of being behind the Holocaust, allied to Nazis, claiming the Holocaust never happened but arguing it should happen again, is something surprisingly many people are actually capable of.
The reason that this hatred goes unchallenged is because most people don’t want to admit it’s there in the first place. They hear antisemitic chants at a football game or protest and pretend they didn’t. Videos have emerged of imams giving sermons in mosques in Canada saying “kill the Jews one by one.” Authorities accepted various excuses for the hatred, but no one wanted to ask why a room full of men listened to the words “kill the Jews” and didn’t say anything. The same reason a room full of leaders listened to the Malaysian prime minister air antisemitic views with no protest, the same reason there was a lack of protest against Ahmadinejed.
Antisemitism is being mainstreamed, along with a whitewashing and watering down of the Holocaust and Nazi crimes, to the point where hatred of Jews will eventually be acceptable in polite society, alongside the claim that others, including Israelis, are “Nazis.”
A first step toward stopping this slide would be for the authorities who have tapes of the Rotterdam protests to arrest and prosecute for hate speech those who shouted “cancer Jews,” put them on trial where they can be shown to be what they are. Instead, what happens in Europe is even those locals who submit cartoons to the Holocaust denial cartoon contest walk around as celebrated teachers and “critics,” always unchallenged.