To begin, let’s try to keep two thoughts in our head at the same time: One: General Ya’ir Golan, deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army, had the right to make a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day suggesting some parallels between certain aspects of the early days of Nazi rule and Israeli society today. Two: such a comparison doesn’t hold up to even the most minimal critical scrutiny.
Golan later clarified that he was not comparing Israel to Nazi Germany
However, leaving the question of what Golan was saying aside, it’s troubling that Irish Times editors chose to publish an op-ed by far-left Israeli activist Uri Avnery using Golan’s words to legitimize his claim that “racist bills in the Knesset strongly resemble laws” adopted “in the early days of the Nazi regime”.
Here’s the crux of his argument:
The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)
The rain of racist Bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke”?) is regularly heard at soccer matches.
A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A chief rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews.
Our ministers for education and culture are busy subduing the schools, theatre and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The supreme court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the minister of justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto.
Of course, the suggestion that any legislation in the Knesset resembles early Nazi laws, or that discrimination against Arab-Israelis or Palestinians is akin to the discrimination against Jews “in the first phase of Nazi Germany” is completely ahistorical. Here’s a list of significant antisemitic legislation and acts during the first two years of Nazi rule:
- March 31: Decree of the Berlin city commissioner for health suspends Jewish doctors from the city’s charity services.
- April 1: Nazi leadership stages an economic boycott of German Jews (Thousands of Stars of David were painted on doors and windows by Nazi Stormtroopers with accompanying antisemitic slogans such as, “The Jews Are Our Misfortune.”)
- April 7: Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service removes Jews from government service.
- April 7: Law on the Admission to the Legal Profession forbids the admission of Jews to the bar.
- April 25: Law against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities limits the number of Jewish students in public schools.
- July 14: De-Naturalization Law revokes the citizenship of naturalized Jews and “undesirables.”
- October 4: Law on Editors bans Jews from editorial posts.
- May 21: Army law expels Jewish officers from the army.
- September 15: Nazi leaders announce the Nuremberg Laws, stripping Jews of German citizenship.
Avnery doesn’t provide any examples of the Nazi-like “rain of racist bills” in the Knesset, perhaps because there are none which could even remotely stand up to such a comparison. Merely the fact that some Israelis have made racist statements and proposed racist ideas – as some people do in every democratic society – is not similar to the codification of a system of racial discrimination enforced by despotic regimes.
Further, the German word “Gleichschaltung“, which Avnery uses to characterize Israel’s ‘dangerous lurch right’, actually refers to the totalitarian practice (under the Nazis) of ending all independent institutions, and coercing all communal, professional, religious, cultural and judicial bodies into subservience to the state – a term with no relevance whatsoever to life in the pluralistic, democratic state of Israel. (Avnery may be alluding to a proposal – which isn’t yet law – by the Culture Ministry to cut government funding from institutions that incite to racism, violence or terrorism or support terrorism. Whilst the merits of proposal are debatable, there is certainly nothing totalitarian, or Gleichschaltung-like, about it.)
Finally, Avnery falls back on classic anti-Zionist agitprop in describing Gaza as a ‘Ghetto’ – presumably akin to the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. The comparison between The Warsaw Ghetto is almost beyond comprehension, but a few facts need to be noted:
In 1941, many Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were limited to a diet of less than 200 calories a day, and in 1942 up to 5,000 Jews in the Ghetto were dying every month due to starvation. Over 100,000 Jews in the Ghetto died due to disease, starvation or random killings. Hundreds of thousands were sent to Nazi death camps. There is no starvation in Gaza or anything resembling an Israeli “liquidation” or mass slaughter of its inhabitants. Current restrictions on shipments to Gaza – including a legal maritime blockade – enforced by Israeli authorities limit only military items or goods which could have a military dimension. Thousands of tons of humanitarian supplies arrive in Gaza daily through Israeli crossing points, even during wartime.
Avnery’s Nazi comparison is completely without merit, and the decision by Irish Times editors to publish such a smear – an analogy considered antisemitic per the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism – represents another example of how, when it comes to Israel, even the most hateful, offensive and incendiary accusations are not off-limits.