A quick note to British journalists on why you shouldn’t call Jews ‘Nazis’

One of the antisemitic tropes on display within the current Labour Party antisemitism row is some variation of the claim that Israeli policies are like those of Nazi Germany.  This simply repellent charge – which has resulted in the suspension of several Labour Party members – suggests that, as former MP David Ward put it a couple of years ago, Jews have not only failed to ‘learn the lessons’ from the Holocaust, but actually exhibit Nazi-like behavior towards the Palestinians today. 

Indeed, one of the few positive developments of the Labour scandal is that the British media – for the most part – has not even attempted to justify such views. Official editorials, op-eds and straight news stories that we’ve monitored have accepted the premise that such Nazi-Israel analogies – considered antisemitic per the EUMC Working Definition – are intellectually unserious and morally beyond the pale.

However, there have been grumblings on Twitter by some who seem to think it’s unfair that non-Jews ‘aren’t allowed’ to use the Nazi analogy, while some Jews (even some Israeli Jews) do just that. Typically, of course, the Jews they’re referring to are usually either of the anti-Zionist variety with little if any real connection to the Jewish community, or – in the case of Israeli Jews – figures representing the extreme left of Israeli society.  

In the case of comments made last night by Major General Yair Golan, the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, while speaking at a Holocaust memorial event in Jerusalem, former New Statesman editor Medhi Hasan was quick to seize the moment to implicitly question why such Nazi analogies are antisemitic, in the following Tweet.

Of course, Hasan’s characterization of Golan’s comments was extremely misleading, as Golan himself made clear later in the day when he said, “I had no intention of making that comparison”.

Golan added: 

“It is an absurd and baseless comparison and I had no intention whatsoever of drawing any sort of parallel or to criticize the national leadership…The IDF is a moral army that respects the rules of engagement and protects human dignity.”

So, while Golan did not make the comparison, even if he had the larger point – as noted in a Tweet in response to Hasan by Guardian political columnist Rafael Behr – is that within minority communities there will be always be some discourse that is acceptable within the group but not as an “accusation from without”.  This is why – to use one example – in the US, while some African-Americans ‘playfully‘ call each other the N-word, whites who use the term are rightly considered to be racist.  You certainly don’t hear any non-extremist whites complaining that this represents an unfair double standard.

So, leaving aside how completely ahistorical the comparison is, non-Jews calling a Jew a Nazi – or even hinting at some moral equivalence between Jewish Israelis today and the Nazis who murdered six million Jews during WW2 – represents a Holocaust inversion and the ultimate insult, despite the fact that some Jews may implicitly (and quite irresponsibly) make such comparisons.  

When coming from non-Jews, it strikes Jewish Israeli ears as simply a horrific term of abuse, designed to inflict maximum pain within the context of the shared collective memory of the Jewish people – a point that self-described anti-racists, of all people, should surely understand.

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