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18 January 2009

Give self-hating Jews a chance

Last Saturday, the Guardian published a letter that compared Israel to the Nazis; described the Palestinian Authority as “Palestinian Quislings”; called on Britain to recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv; and supported a boycott of Israeli goods.
Before informing the readers that the images from Gaza “reminded” them “of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto”, the 78 signatories felt compelled to say: “We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin”, somehow establishing a connection between what they said (Israel = Nazi) and who they were (Jews).

The latest letter raises three questions: the substance of the accusations levelled against Israel; whether being Jewish makes such opinions more compelling or more legitimate; and what purpose these individuals serve, by linking their Jewish credentials to the radical ideas they endorse.

On the substance, the signatories compare Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Nazis. This is not new, of course, but its repetition does not make it truer. In Auschwitz, there were around 30,000 daily deaths — all unarmed, starved prisoners. In Gaza, since the start of Israel’s offensive, there have been fewer than 50 deaths a day, up to 70 percent of them Hamas fighters. Nazis took joy at massacring civilians. Israelis give warning via phone to civilians. Nazis starved their victims for months before destroying the Ghetto. Israel sends humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicines every day. Intelligent people should be able to see the difference and refrain from such comparisons. Are our friends of Jewish origins stupid or malicious? Judge for yourself.

In the process, they ends up trivializing the Holocaust as well, much like Holocaust denial. If only 50 people a day died in the Warsaw Ghetto while the Nazis were resupplying their hapless Jewish victims with food and medicine, one cannot fault the Nazis too much. It also follows, logically, that Jews trying to turn that history into a paradigm of evil are exaggerating – for political goals perhaps? You see where this can go.


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