Alvin Rosenfeld, in a recent essay at The Forward (Moral Emptiness of Holocaust Survivors Who Took on Israel, Aug. 28), argued that “stamping” Israel-Nazi analogies “with the moral authority that supposedly belongs to Holocaust survivors does not turn these lies into truth”.
Rosenfeld wrote these words in the context of addressing a Guardian letter on Aug. 15th by Holocaust survivors (also published by the New York Times) condemning Israel’s alleged ‘pro-genocidal’ policies – a Holocaust inversion which the Guardian once against saw fit to amplify in the following letter, published on September 11th:
One night, when I was 13, I was woken by the sound of a door being broken down. Boots stumbled up the stairs, there was loud shouting, and a terrifying series of crashes. Nazi stormtroopers had identified our house as the home of a Jewish family, and this was the night of 9 November 1938, when the Kristallnacht pogrom raged across Germany. Our entire home was destroyed before our eyes, with axes and sledgehammers.
I have a vivid recollection of my father, after the monsters had gone, sitting on the one chair that remained and weeping. I had never seen him weep before. I now realise that, but for the presence of myself and my younger sister, my parents might not have survived the raid. It was a brutal demonstration of our situation. My sister and I left Germany on the last Kindertransport from Düsseldorf in May 1939. We have never had a full account of our parents’ fate.
Even now, I sometimes start up in bed, reliving that night. But in recent weeks, it is more often images of devastation in Gaza – of homes and families destroyed in Israeli targetings of such “military objectives” as the homes of officials in the democratically elected Hamas government – that have recalled the terror of the Kristallnacht. For I can hardly believe that a Jewish government is doing these things. How can Jewish people, aware of their own history, undertake a campaign of collective punishment that kills a higher multiple of the casualties cited as justification, than did the Nazi reprisals for resistance in occupied Europe?
Surely we have reached the point where every government not composed of utter humbugs must join in insisting that an Israeli renunciation of ambitions for expansion beyond the 1947 boundaries is a prerequisite for progress towards reconciliation and peace within a two-state solution. The very doubtful prospect of a unified, multinational, secular state in Palestine appears to be the only alternative.
Though Regent’s claim that Israeli attacks evoke the 1938 Nazi pogrom against innocent German Jews known as ‘Kristallnacht’ is completely ahistorical and extraordinarily offensive, the suggestion that Israel’s war against Hamas represented ‘collective punishment’ on scale with “Nazi reprisals” against civilians during World War 2 is simply delusional.
Whilst the IDF took extraordinary (arguably unprecedented) measures during the recent war to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza (amidst the widespread use of Hamas of human shields), the Nazis systematically used murderous reprisals against innocent civilians on a massive scale. Frequently, if partisans killed a German soldier, Nazis would round-up and execute all the men and teenage boys in a nearby village, often employing a reprisal ratio of one hundred civilians for every German soldier killed.
In addition to the six million Jews (and millions of others) systemically murdered by the Nazis, it is believed that such ‘reprisals’ over the course of WWII may have accounted for “hundreds of thousands [of innocent civilians] killed in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and France”, and likely over a million in Poland and the Soviet Union.
Finally, though there may very well be a good argument to be made for simply not dignifying intellectually unserious comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany with such comparative data on civilian casualties, we believe that such responses are at least sometimes necessary to expose such inexplicable Guardian editorial decisions to legitimize these appalling abuses of Holocaust memory.