According to a poll carried out in January by the Bertelsmann Foundation, 30 percent of German residents agree that Israel is doing to the Palestinians "what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Third Reich." (Haaretz, March 12)
Think about it for a second, please: 30% of the Germans think that Israel is trying to exterminate the Palestinians: 'The fence and the checkpoints put them into ghettos, the border police are beating them up like the SS, the re-occupation of Jenin in 2002 resembles the crushing of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt
and in general Israel tries to make life impossible for the Palestinians, which amounts to ethnic cleansing, to create a racist Jews-only state in all of 'Eretz Israel'. Gaza is in fact one big concentration camp.' Thus the reasoning goes. There is just one tiny difference: Israel managed to kill a mere 4,000 Palestinians in 7 years of fighting, whereas the Nazis killed more Jews than that in one day.
30% of the German people either don't know what the Nazis did to the Jews, or what is happening in Israel and the territories. The first is unlikely, as German media show endless documentaries about the Holocaust, survivors tell their stories, school classes go on excursions to Auschwitz, and the question "What did you do in the war, dad?"
has troubled many family relations. The best thing one can do to ruin the career of a public figure is to accuse him of having been a member of the Hitler Jugend or, even worse, of the Waffen SS. A movie about the last days of Hitler, which portrayed him as a human being rather than a devil, sparked a big controversy, but the movie itself marks a significant change in the way Germans look at the past. Apart from the question of whether or not that is a good development, all this shows that Germans are very much dealing with the past and also obsessed with it, because what happened is beyond human understanding. No other country wrestles so much with its history and has so many memorials marking their inky black past, and justly so. For many Germans as well as other Europeans, the Nazis are the symbol of absolute evil.
As in this light it is hardly conceivable that 30% of the Germans don't know about their past, it seems to follow that they don't know what is going on in Israel and the territories, and sincerely think that Israel is using Nazi methods against the Palestinians. This might in part be due to media coverage of the conflict, that shows the wall (not the fence), Israeli soldiers shooting at Palestinian youths, tanks in the narrow streets of Palestinian refugee camps, checkpoints and fanatic settlers, much more than that it shows fanatic Palestinians shouting 'death to Israel, kill the Jews', smuggling weapons, training exercises of the new Hamas executive force etc. Someone active in the Dutch socialist party and no friend of Israel, closely followed the news on German TV during the Lebanon war and said it was quite favorable to Lebanon/Hezbollah.
It might also be due to an aversion of many Germans to militarism and nationalism as a reaction to their country's Nazi history, like Leonie Schultens suggests
, although it is a bit strange at least that they are apparently not so upset about militarism of other states. One cannot escape the observation that Germans (and other Europeans) have a problem with militaristic and aggressive Jews especially. Chinese, Russians and all kinds of African tribes may kill their enemies in brutal ways and silence their opponents brutally, Jews should not do that. They ought to be civilized. They ought to not do to others what was done to them. After all, Jews know how it feels to be persecuted, beaten and chased away.
Germans equating Israeli behavior in the territories to the Nazis, also known as Holocaust Inversion
, is not only disgusting, but also frightening. It is in fact a form of anti-Semitism no less than Holocaust denial, directed both towards the Jewish community in general and specifically to Israel. It is attractive for Germans to find a way out of their horrible past, an escape, without actually denying what happened. Holocaust inversion makes it possible to relieve their guilt and to view Germans as a normal people, like every other people capable of doing great things but also of doing terrible things, and not even worse than the very people they tried to exterminate. After all, we all harbor good and evil inside us. As Manfred Gerstenfield notes
, politicians of mainstream parties use the Nazi analogy:
Using Nazi genocidal language for Israel's actions is another tool of Holocaust inversion. The most effective way to sanitize Germany's immense crimes is to accuse Israel of acting similarly. In 2002 Norbert BlŁm, a former German Christian Democrat minister of labor, charged that the Jewish state was conducting a "Vernichtungskrieg" against the Palestinians-the Nazi expression for a war of extermination.
Of course no people is inherently good or evil. But that should not lead us away from the facts, or make us invent or deny facts or suggest similarities where none exist.
Not just Germans, but many people in Europe think that the Jews have been transformed from an oppressed people in an oppressing people, and many people say that especially Jews should not do such things to other people. On one hand, this is an understandable position. But it is also discriminatory at best, and anti-Semitic at worst. It says essentially that Jews are to be held to higher standards of behavior because they were persecuted throughout history, and this is being said to them by the very people who persecuted them. "We murdered you, but we learned from our past, paid you reparations, and now you should act conform our new standards".
Very moral indeed.
Not only many Germans said "nie wieder"
(never again) after the war, many Jews did so too. They decided that there is only one way to ensure this, and that is by being able to defend themselves in their own state. This is not to say that Israel was created because of the Holocaust, as the first Zionists came to Palestine in the 19th century, and in the years before the war the Jewish community in Palestine was essentially functioning as an independent state, minding its own affairs in many respects. Unfortunately they had no say in Jewish immigration to Palestine and could not prevent the British authorities from closing the country almost entirely for Jewish immigration in 1939, under strong pressure from the Arabs. They had to passively look on as reports came in about what happened to the Jews in Europe, although illegal immigration rescued some 60.000 people.
Israel was founded on the premise that the problem of anti-Semitism could not be solved within Europe or other countries where Jews had lived for centuries, but only by Jews taking their fate into their own hands, by creating a national home for the Jewish people. This ideology, Zionism, was not a result of the Holocaust, but the Holocaust proved it right in the most cynical way.
Jews working the land and defending themselves was quite new and disturbing to some people. Jews shooting at and oppressing another people even more. Yet that doesn't justify the allegation that the Jews 'overreacted' and went from one extreme to the other, turned from helpless victims into cruel perpetrators. The occupation was justified in light of the Arab aggression and rejectionism, but the settlement project has been a grave mistake. The 'wall' and the checkpoints are a result of the second Intifada, in which about 1000 Israelis were killed, mostly civilians. Soldiers and settlers sometimes behave cruelly (and are convicted for that in some - too few - cases), like American soldiers and French soldiers and every other army does in time of war. This is no justification, and every army has the duty to abide by the rules of war and every state has the duty to punish those who don't, but it's not fair to be particularly upset if Jews are doing such things, and it is disgusting to compare them to the people who tried to exterminate them and built a huge destruction infrastructure to accomplish that.
Jews have lost the innocence we attributed to them in the past, when they were accused of many evils like the plague, financial breakdowns or wars, but they haven't become the equivalent of their murderers. By gaining political independence they have become more like a 'normal' people, with its heroic and noble deeds but also with its indifference and sometimes cruelty towards its enemies. It is time the outside world starts looking at them and treating them like a normal people, and doesn't expect them to be more moral than their enemies or compare them to their former persecutors. Ratna Pelle
This article was also posted at Israel-Palestina Info
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Germans worried over growing denial of Israel's right to exist
Haaretz - Mon., March 12, 2007 Adar 22, 5767
By Assaf Uni
BERLIN - The state of Israel is facing two strategic threats: an Iranian nuclear bomb and the denial of its right to exist. During a week in which German bishops compared Israel's actions in the territories with the deeds of the Nazis and an international survey determined that Germans have the lowest opinion of Israel in Europe, it is difficult to say which option is more frightening.
That, at least, is the picture that emerged from the annual European-Israel Dialogue held in Berlin this weekend, whose participants included Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading academics and several Israeli diplomats and officials.
The growing delegitimization of Israel in recent years was raised in every session of the conference, organized by the Axel Springer Foundation. This year in particular, Merkel said at the opening session, in light of the threats emanating from Iran, it is important to emphasize that Germany supports Israel and that protecting Israel's right to exist will continue to stand at the center of Germany's foreign policy. "I regret that I am forced to reiterate this repeatedly," the chancellor added.
As a recent example of a statement undermining Israel's right to exist, speakers at the conference referred to the remarks made by German bishops during a visit to the Palestinian Authority, following a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.
"In the morning, we see the photos of the inhuman Warsaw Ghetto, and this evening we travel to the ghetto in Ramallah; that makes you angry," Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstatt told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
In a conversation with Haaretz, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called Hanke's remarks "scandalous," adding, "personally, I was angry that no denunciations were voiced from within Germany."
The President of Tel Aviv University, Itamar Rabinovich, said at the conference that since according to the German Bishops, Israel's right to exist derives from the Holocaust, "the fact that the State of Israel is now behaving 'like the Nazi regime' undermines its right to exist."
However, it appears that the parallel drawn by the bishops, which was repudiated in a letter sent by the leader of Germany's Catholic Church to the board of Yad Vashem, represents the view held by a significant portion of Germans. According to a poll carried out in January by the Bertelsmann Foundation, 30 percent of German residents agree that Israel is doing to the Palestinians "what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Third Reich." A recent poll carried out for the BBC World Service ranked Israel (together with Iran) as the country with the most negative influence on the world. The vast Germany ranked highest among all European countries polled for its negative views of Israel, with 77 percent of respondents reporting "mainly negative" views of Israel.
Some conference attendees said these figures join articles in leading newspapers describing Israel as an "apartheid" state, economic boycotts against the country by churches and labor unions and the academic boycott by European universities in the trend toward questioning Israel's moral right to exist.
"I am amazed anew each time at the fact that the question of Israel's right to exist is still a matter for discussion," the Jewish-German author and journalist Henryk Broder told Haaretz. "What more needs to happen for Israel to be accepted as a state, 60 years after its founding?"
The former head of the Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, believes the legitimacy issue is rooted in Israeli academia. "The source of the problem lies in Israel," Halevy told Haaretz. "The central figures in the debate are in Israeli academia and the issue must be solved within Israel by means of academic confrontation with the 'deniers.' "
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