A Guardian podcast featuring Jerusalem correspondent Bethan McKernan and international correspondent Michael Safi again legitimised the historically illiterate comparison between the Israeli terror attack on Palestinians in Hawara last month and the Nazis Kristallnacht attack on Jews in 1938.
At 7:20 into the podcast, (“Israel and the West Bank: a week of rage and rampage”, March 13) McKernan, in reference to the Feb. 25 incident where dozens of Israelis rioted violently in the West Bank town of Huwara, setting fire to Palestinian homes and cars, hours after two Israelis were shot dead there, said the following:
Even right-wing commentators were kind of likening this to Kristallnacht when Nazis went on a pogrom against Jewish communities in the 1930s
Her co-host Michael Safi then replied:
Wow, I mean, that is an astonishing comparison for Israelis to make given that they know the gravity of Kristallacht.
As she did a in previous article, McKernan justified the analogy by noting that even “some” Israeli journalists (precisely two ) made the comparison. However, that’s not an excuse to promote the comparison. Just as in other countries, there will always be some Israeli journalists and commentators who – out of cynicism, ignorance or malice – evoke unserious historical analogies for the shock value or to score political points.
The terror attack in Hawara – which was widely condemned within Israel – left many Palestinians injured, as well as one dead – in unclear circumstances.
Kristallacht (the Night of Broken Glass) was a Nazi organised pogrom during which 91 Jews were murdered, more than 1,400 synagogues across Germany, Austria and and areas of the Sudetenland were torched, and Jewish-owned shops and businesses were plundered and destroyed. In addition, the Jews were forced to pay “compensation” for the damage that had been caused, and approximately 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Some scholars have framed Kristallnacht as a crucial turning point in German policy regarding the Jews, “marking the shift from antisemitic rhetoric and legislation to the violent, aggressive anti-Jewish measures that would culminate with the Holocaust”.
It simply can not be seriously be argued that the vigilante violence by dozens of Israelis in Huwara – of their own volition – in any way resembles the pre-planned assault on the Jewish community in November of 1938 by the genocidal Nazi regime.
Let’s also recall that the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism includes, as a contemporary example of antisemitism, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”.
As Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, wrote in The Times last week (“Let’ calm down, remember history, and keep Nazi comparisons out of political rhetoric”, March 10) in response to the Gary Lineker row:
The policies of 1930s Germany led to the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children who were first stripped of their rights, their citizenship, their jobs. They were forced from their homes. Many were taken to overcrowded ghettos and camps. They were worked to death, they were starved to death, they were gassed to death, they were shot to death in ravines and forests across Europe.
The Nazis agreed on, organised and perpetrated the Holocaust. Their actions left permanent scars on humanity and had ramifications still felt the world over.
So, however passionately we feel about important and pressing issues of the day, it seems to me that comparing those current concerns to the almost unimaginable horrors of the Nazi period is wrong. These comparisons are wrong when the point being made is one we agree with, and when it is not.
Finally, we should note that McKernan has a record of amplifying those who peddle Nazi-Israel analogies. Back in 2017, when she was with the Independent, McKernan effectively endorsed a book (Hidden History of Zionism) by fringe extremist Ralph Schoenman alleging that Zionism emulated Nazism.
McKernan’s article endorsing Schoenman’s antisemitic book was too much even for Indy editors, who responded to our complaint by completely retracting the article.
When, in 2021, the Guardian announced that McKernan would be their new Jerusalem correspondent, we expressed concern over the extreme ideological baggage she was bringing to her new role, concerns which her repeated amplification of the Kristallacht analogy shows were clearly warranted.