Can Israel’s No. 1 priority to fight modern anti-Semitism – hatred of the Jewish state – influence a change in behavior of the international community? The Foreign Ministry, which opens its third annual Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism (GFCA) on Wednesday in Jerusalem, is slated to tackle the growing dangers of Islamic anti-Semitism and international campaigns to strip Israel of its legitimacy as a country.According to the GFCA registration list, over 500 participants plan to attend the two-day conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Delegations comprising diplomats, academics, and policy makers from the United States, Germany, France, Hungary, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Venezuela and Argentina are listed on the GFCA roster. The Swedish Embassy confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that its ambassador and MPs planned to attend. Anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments are mushrooming in Europe. In early December, the University of Bielefeld in Germany issued its new study – “German Situation” – examining anti-Semitism in the Federal Republic in particular, and Europe in general. The study showed a spike in hatred towards Jews in Germany. According to the Bielefeld report, 41.2 percent of Europeans agreed with the anti-Semitic statement that Jews are exploiting the Holocaust to advance their own interests. When asked if “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” 45.7% of the European respondents supported the contention. While the European Union (EU) has a working definition of anti-Semitism that captures Israel-bashing and resentments against theJewish state because of Europe’s complicity in the Holocaust, the definition is largely ignored by the media and politicians. Dr. Beate Küpper, a professor at the University of Bielefeld and one of the authors of the Bielefeld study, told the Post on Tuesday that there has been a “modernization of the stereotype” against Jews. Classic anti-Semitism, for example, that attributes avarice as a defining motivation for Jews is no longer front and center in European public discourse. Küpper said that Europeans were using “indirect ways” to express anti-Semitism, such as by targeting Israel and by claiming a misuse of the Holocaust. A telling example of Europe’s failure to grasp the contemporary manifestation of anti-Semitism took place in Hamburg. After anti-Israeli German Leftists in late October prevented the showing of director Claude Lanzmann’s debut film, Why Israel, he termed last week the German media’s indifference to the ban of his film as the “larger scandal.” Germany is a peculiar case. The government pledged to combat global anti-Semitism at a 2004 conference in Berlin. However, BBC polls in 2007 and 2008 show Germans (tied with Spain in ’08) as harboring the most anti-Israeli attitudes within the EU. Critics charge that many policy-makers and politicians are consumed with preventing harm to dead Jews rather than focusing on threats to living Jews. Petra Pau, a Left Party MP in the Bundestag, frequently issues the results of her parliamentary queries documenting vandalizedJewish cemeteries in Germany. Yet Pau avoids criticizing members of her party who equate Israel with Nazi Germany, and who attended pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullah rallies during Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War, where calls for the destruction of Israel were advocated. On the other side of the Atlantic, there has been disappointment with the Obama administration’s new anti-Semitism czar. The growing tendency to blame Israel for problems affecting Diaspora Jews has plagued Hannah Rosenthal, the newly appointed US special envoy to monitor and combat global anti-Semitism, who is slated to speak at the GFCA on “Dealing with Old and New Forms of Antisemitism.” “It’s a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what’s going on in Israel,” Rosenthal has said. Michael Goldfarb, writing in his Weekly Standard blog, sharply criticized Rosenthal for suggesting that “the Israelis have it coming” and “the rest of the world needs to distinguish between the good progressive Jews who are not living on Palestinian land and the Israeli Jews who are committing daily atrocities in the name of colonialism and occupation.” The weekly Brooklyn-based Jewish Press editorialized against Rosenthal’s appointment, and asked if “President Obama subscribes to Ms. Rosenthal’s implication that Israeli Jews are fair game for anti-Semitic attacks, as opposed to non-Israeli Jews who are not?” The alarm bells rang loudly last year when Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman wrote an open letter to Rosenthal in the New York Jewish Week, in which he slammed her for describing an Israel solidarity rally as representing “narrow, ultra-conservative views of what it means to be pro-Israel.” The ADL, however, did issue in late November a statement saying “this appointment signals the continued seriousness of America’s resolve to fight anti-Semitism.” Rosenthal is a member of the J Street Council, a liberal Jewish advocacy organization, that rejects sanctions against the Iranian regime. The timid J Street approach to the world’s No. 1 exporter of anti-Semitism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, will surely prompt observers at the Global Forum to closely monitorRosenthal’s posture toward Iran’s revolutionary anti-Semitism. But Rosenthal has a mixed track record. While serving as the head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), she urged the Europeans to walk away from future UN anti-racism conferences modeled on the Durban event in 2001, which was widely considered to be a bottomless pit of anti-Israeli hatred. The JCPA, underRosenthal at the time, wrote in a statement that “continuing to use international forums in an attempt to isolate Israel diplomatically will only make it more difficult to resolve the issues in dispute through direct, bilateral negotiations.” For the international community to shift its energies to combat modern anti-Semitism – the intense loathing and disparate treatment of Israel – will require wholesale revisions in their anti-anti-Semitism strategies on the ground.
Leading Mickey Mouse scholars to meet in Jerusalem; announce plans for global protest against proliferation of anti-Mickey Mouse-ism; Abe Foxman also warns against rising tide of anti-Donald Duck-ism — “Not since the 1930s have fans of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck faced such a dire threat”; but Minnie Mouse publicly rebuked by Elie Wiesel after she alleges that threat against her husband worse than The Holocaust
Wherever and whenever there is a buck to be made I must do something to honor the memory of the money I lost to Madoff. Am I living in fear? I must alleviate my bank account. If there’s a gullible audience, the show must go on.
By KATHY ROUTLIFFE Staff WriterDo not expect to leave the newly opened Illinois Holocaust Museum & Educational Center knowing what caused the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel told 12,000 people Sunday afternoon in Skokie, at the center’s official opening. “Don’t say, ‘Now we know,’” the author, Nobel laureate and survivor cautioned. “I pray you don’t know.” Wiesel’s novel Night chronicled his youthful journey through the death camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald. The journalist and human rights activist, who lost his parents and one of three sisters to the crematoria, was one of the keynote speakers Sunday. Learning about the machinery of hate which consumed millions of men, women and children — primarily Jews, but also Poles, gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped and anyone deemed subhuman by Hitler’s regime — grants no ultimate understanding of why it happened, he said. Many of the people who were the worst tormenters and murderers were among the most educated men in Europe, Wiesel said. The methods they devised to kill people on an unheard-of scale were horrifyingly successful: “The system worked,” he said. “Who knows why — maybe God knows,” he said, adding that truly comprehending the reasons the Holocaust took place “would fill up our lives with fear.” In fact, Wiesel said, the world has shown repeatedly since World War II that humanity hasn’t learned from the lessons of the Holocaust. Had humans learned the lesson that he and other survivors have tried to teach — to eschew hatred and bigotry — “there would have been no Cambodia. There would have been no Rwanda, no Darfur, there would have been no Bosnia.” On Sunday he challenged his listeners to use what they learn at the museum, not only to honor the memory of the murdered millions, but to help them live the kind of life that could prevent any future Holocaust. Wiesel likened that to the hope which remained at the bottom of the mythical Pandora’s box of ills, after all the curses and maledictions contained therein escaped. “Life is not made up of years, but of moments. Let every moment be one that guides your conduct. Choose life,” he admonished. “Choose the living. “Wherever and whenever living human beings suffer, we must do something to honor their dignity. Are they living in fear? We must alleviate their fear. If they are in danger, we must come to their defense.”
Oren on Golstone: Worse than Achmadinejad…worse than Holocaust deniers….worse than Auschwitz…worse than beet borscht
Why the Holocaust Still Matters
By Michael B. Oren
Toughened by their frontier ethos, steeled by serial wars, Israelis are not prone to flattery. Most, in fact, eschew using the closest equivalent to the Hebrew word for flattery–chanupa–in favor of the derisive Yiddish-derivative, firgun. An Israeli joke holds that the word, slashed by a red diagonal line, graces the exit from Ben-Gurion Airport, together with the warning, “You are now entering a Firgun Free Zone.”
Not surprisingly, then, several Israeli commentators reacted unflatteringly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Though many international leaders and even the audience in the U.N. hall applauded Netanyahu, his words were lambasted in Haaretz by Tom Segev as “unnecessary and embarrassing” and by Gideon Levy as “demagogic” and “insulting to the intelligence.” Aluf Benn, one of Israel’s most respected journalists, faulted the prime minister for failing to address a global, rather than an Israeli, audience.
The bulk of the speech highlighted the threat of Iranian nuclearization, the travesty of the Goldstone Report, and Israel’s hopes for a peace with the Palestinians based on security and mutual recognition. Yet criticism of the prime minister virtually ignored these topics and focused instead on his opening remarks, about the Holocaust. “One third of all Jews perished in the great conflagration of the Holocaust,” Netanyahu reminded the delegates. “Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own.” He went on to assail President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the world’s premier Holocaust denier, who had addressed the same assembly the previous day, as well as those ambassadors who did not walk out on him. “Have you no shame?” Netanyahu upbraided them. “Have you no decency?”
Detractors of Netanyahu alleged that, by asserting the reality of the Holocaust, he stooped to Ahmadinejad’s level–worse, that he granted credibility to the Iranian thug by debating him over a universally accepted truth. “If 64 years after World War II concluded with Hitler’s fall … the debate on the reality of the Holocaust has reached the UN General Assembly,” Benn wrote, “then Ahmadinejad has succeeded in instilling doubt.”
Perhaps because they were raised in a society suffused with Holocaust consciousness, some Israelis might be unaware of the extent of ignorance of the Final Solution throughout the world, even in the United States, and especially among youth. Confronted with the enormity of the horror, many young people today–much like American Jewish leaders in 1942–react with incredulousness, rendering them susceptible to denial. Millions of Muslims, moreover, subscribe to the syllogism: If Israel was created by Europeans out of Holocaust guilt, and the Holocaust never occurred, then Israel’s existence is unjust. Where better than the General Assembly, a body established in response to World War II and affording a global audience, to reaffirm the veracity of an event now so widely questioned if not refuted?
But in concentrating on the prime minister’s preamble, critics overlook the deeper connections between the Holocaust and his subsequent themes. Recognizing the murder of six million Jews more than six decades ago is, in fact, vital for understanding the supreme dangers posed to six million Jews in Israel today by a nuclear Iran and by the Goldstone Report. Reasserting the factuality of the Holocaust is a prerequisite for peace.
Many factors contributed to the Holocaust–European anti-Semitism, mass murder technologies, and Allied indifference–but none more elemental than the Jews’ inability to defend themselves. Israel and its citizen Defense Forces represent the most palpable means for redressing that incapacity.
Accordingly, denying the Holocaust not only deprives Israel of its raison d’être, but, more nefariously still, it invalidates the Jews’ need to defend themselves. So, the Iranian leader proceeds to arm Hamas and Hezbollah and produce nuclear weapons while claiming that the Jews of Israel–like those of 1940s Europe–have nothing to fear. But Ahmadinejad does not stop short at merely deeming the Holocaust a “fairy tale;” rather, he portrays Israel as a Nazi state–guilty of perpetrating the very offenses against the Palestinians that the Nazis never did to the Jews.
Where Ahmadinejad leaves off, the Goldstone Report, or, as it is officially called, the “United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” persists. The U.N. mission purports to have investigated Israel’s military action in Gaza last winter, an operation launched in response to the firing of more than 7,000 Hamas missiles at Israeli towns since Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Strip. But instead of probing Hamas’s deliberate effort to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and its doctrine of hiding behind Palestinian human shields, the judges interviewed handpicked Hamas witnesses, several of them senior commanders disguised as civilians, and uncritically accepted their testimony. Inexorably, the report, which presumed Israel’s guilt, condemned the Jewish state for crimes against humanity and for mounting a premeditated campaign against Gaza civilians.
The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents–as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed.
Ahmadinejad’s genocidal rhetoric and the iniquity of the Goldstone Report notwithstanding, Israel will, of course, continue to defend its citizens. No amount of vitriol will compel Israel onto a course of self-destruction. But what will be destroyed is any chance for peace. Having twice withdrawn unilaterally to recognized borders and received only onslaughts in return, and having suffered censure for protecting themselves from that aggression, Israelis will understandably recoil from additional retreats that will leave them vulnerable. Israelis, moreover, will not withdraw from any territory liable to become staging grounds for terrorist groups empowered by international agencies and convinced of their ability to murder Israelis with impunity.
Israel will pursue policies with or without firgun. But by making the connection between the Holocaust and its denial, the Iranian nuclear program, and the Goldstone Report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has exposed the venal narrative that concludes with Israel’s paralysis. By reaffirming Israel’s right to safeguard its citizens, he has demarcated the only path to peace.
Michael B. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Switzerland’s biggest city, Zurich, has allowed the use of a controversial poster which urges a ban on the building of minarets in the country.
The poster shows a woman dressed in a burka in front of black minarets standing on a Swiss flag.
But Zurich city council said campaign posters were protected by free speech.
The advert is being used by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) ahead of next month’s referendum on whether to ban the building of new minarets.
The Swiss Federal Commission Against Racism said earlier this week that the poster was “tantamount to the denigration and defamation of the peaceful Swiss Muslim population”.
Some media reports have said the minarets resemble missiles.
New opinion poll
Zurich city council said on Thursday that although it disapproved of the “negative and dangerous” poster, it had to be accepted as part of political free speech ahead of the 29 November national referendum.
The city followed the examples of Geneva, Lucerne and Winterthur, who earlier also gave the green light to the use of the SVP’s advert.
But a number of Swiss cities – including Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg – have banned the advert in public spaces.
Meanwhile, an opinion poll on Thursday showed that 51% of those questioned would reject the proposed ban.
Nearly 35% of the respondents supported the ban, according to the poll in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.
Switzerland is home to some 300,000 Muslims, who make up about 4% of the population.
It has hundreds of mosques, but only a handful of them have minarets.
Plans to build more minarets prompted the campaign for a ban.
By Gideon LevyPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cheapened the memory of the Holocaust in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He did so twice. Once, when he brandished proof of the very existence of the Holocaust, as if it needed any, and again when he compared Hamas to the Nazis. If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, Netanyahu cheapens it. Is there a need of proof, 60 years later? Or, the world might think, is the denier right? And it is doubtful that any historian of stature would buy the comparison the prime minister made between Hamas and the Nazis, or between the London Blitz and the Qassam rockets on Sderot. In the Blitz, 400 German bombers and 600 fighter planes killed 43,000 people and destroyed more than one million homes. Hamas’ Qassams, perhaps the most primitive weapon in the world, have killed 18 people in eight years. Yes, they sowed great terror – but a Blitz? And if we can compare a poorly equipped terrorist organization to the horrific Nazi killing machine, why should others not compare the Nazis’ behavior to that of Israel Defense Forces soldiers? In both cases, the comparison is baseless and infuriating. Netanyahu began the speech as if he were chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial – Holocaust, Holocaust, Holocaust; his family and his wife’s family. Then he spoke in Shimon Peres’ terms, proposing a “rosy future” to humanity. No less demagogic was his attack on the Iranian regime. They shoot demonstrators there, he protested vehemently. As if they don’t do that in our Bil’in and Na’alin. Then came the kicker: Operation Cast Lead was a pinpoint attack. Israel telephoned thousands of people to tell them to leave their homes. Where to, Mr. Prime Minister? Into the sea? He said the IDF, which killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, exhibited unprecedented restraint. Moving on: We made peace with every Arab leader who wanted to, the premier said. What about Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been knocking on doors for years, claiming he wants peace? No one has opened the doors. Talk of security and victims may still have buyers among the WIZO women of America, but that’s it. For a regional power that has almost every weapon in the world in its arsenal and is fighting primitive terror organizations, it is a bit difficult to be taken seriously when talking about security, especially when said security is only for Israelis. Then came our ancient right to the land and the unavoidable Biblical verses, in English and the original Hebrew, that always end the performance on such occasions – though Netanyahu, unlike his predecessors, did not pull out a skullcap at this crucial moment. That moment was supposed to move his listeners, but it left me, at least, unmoved by a propagandist prime minister. Hallelujah was heard last night only in Ramat Gan Stadium, at the Leonard Cohen concert.
Where are Burt Neuborne, “Rabbi” Israel Singer, Edgar “I speak for the Six Million Dead Jews” Bronfman, and all the Holocaust hucksters now?
By ETGAR LEFKOVITSIn an increasingly bitter legal dispute, the Company for Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets will file a NIS 305 million lawsuit against Bank Leumi next week over assets that belong to Holocaust victims and their heirs, a group spokeswoman said Wednesday.
A Bank Leumi branch … The legal action against Israel’s second largest bank follows years of fruitless negotiations to reclaim the funds that the restitution group said were deposited by Holocaust victims in thousands of bank accounts before World War II. The NIS 305m. being claimed in the lawsuit, which will be filed in a Tel Aviv court, was deposited by Holocaust victims in more than 3,500 Bank Leumi accounts, group spokeswoman Meital Noy said. As a gesture, Bank Leumi transferred NIS 20 million to the organization two years ago, even though the bank has asserted that it does not hold any funds or property belonging to Holocaust victims. An internal report carried out for the bank by a retired Supreme Court justice concluded that the bank is not legally obliged to hand over to heirs money it had held for people who died in the Holocaust. A Bank Leumi spokesperson on Wednesday rejected the imminent lawsuit as “baseless,” and said the legal action was being taken solely to cover up the restitution organization’s own blunders and waste of public funds. “Bank Leumi set up all the required resources in order to check the details which were given to it by the organization,” the bank said, in a written response. “While working with the organization, faults were found with its operations. In the hundreds of files which the organization was asked to investigate, errors were found in the sum of hundreds of millions of shekels,” the bank said. “It should be pointed out that Bank Leumi, on its own initiative, transferred NIS 20 million to the organization due to its deep commitment to the matter,” the statement said. The restitution group spokeswoman called the NIS 20 million Bank Leumi transferred “a joke” which came nowhere near the more than NIS 300 million she claimed the bank owed. The vast majority of bank accounts opened by Holocaust victims were in Leumi. The organization says it has also found some 300 other accounts opened by Holocaust victims before the war in four other Israeli banks, with deposits totalling NIS 28 million. The Company for Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets was established by the Knesset three years ago in an effort to return the assets of Holocaust victims to their rightful heirs. Two years ago, the group published the first list of assets and property of Holocaust victims found in Israel. Property and assets belonging to Holocaust victims valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars have been held by various state institutions in Israel for dozens of years. Only recently has restitution their rightful heirs begun. Property and assets that are not claimed will be used to help elderly Holocaust survivors in need. About 250,000 survivors live in Israel, and nearly one-third of them live in poverty, Israeli welfare reports have found, prompting a recent landmark accord for additional government assistance. The organization itself has faced criticism for its protracted bureaucracy and has been called upon to immediately distribute funds to elderly survivors.
‘Anti-Israel Sentiment’; Recent incidents at school have left many ‘shocked and shaken’By Giuseppe Valiante York University teachers should be prohibited from expressing personal political views unrelated to the course they are teaching, according to a report from a commission of Toronto-area Jewish groups on improving campus life for Jewish students. The commission, composed of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, Hillel of Greater Toronto, Hasbara at York and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, compiled hundreds of submissions from students, faculty and Jewish community members after recent events at York “have left many members of our community shocked and shaken,” the report cited. The final report cites episodes of “intimidation, harassment, ridicule and virulent anti-Israel sentiment” on the York campus over the past year. Howard English, the UJA of Greater Toronto’s vice-president for communications, said the incidents have prompted Jewish donors to York to express concern to the administration. He added there is a history of anti-Israel expression at York. “We’re talking about off-hand comments, or scurrilous comments … unwarranted or unjustified political personal opinion that is not based on fact or is unrelated to the course that an instructor is teaching,” Mr. English said. “We had one case of a [teaching assistant] who told a student who was wearing a Israel Defence Forces T-shirt to never come into his class again with that T-shirt on,” Mr. English said. The report asks York to establish a confidential hotline for students to report “abuse of the podium” incidents. It also recommends that York implement several other measures, including providing school security forces with “enhanced training in order to deal more effectively with disruptive events and individuals” and to “rigorously define the academic standards expected of all university-sponsored conferences.” The report also recommends the university should no longer allow Vari Hall, a central meeting place for students, to be booked for political pusposes, for the universitiy to “increase the severity of sanctions for those who repeatedly violate the code of conduct,” and “empower York Security to issue reprimands … that would remain on a student’s academic transcript for a period of not less than two years.” This list of recommendations was delivered to the York University Task Force on Student Life, Learning and Community, which was created in March by university president Mamdouh Shoukri to improve the atmosphere on campus. Patrick Monahan, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the task force, was not available for comment yesterday. The York University Faculty Association did not return calls as of press time. It’s been a tough 50th anniversary for York University. Three of its unions went on strike for months last fall, delaying classes and final exams, the university’s endowment is down by 18% and recent reports cite that 7% fewer Ontario high-school students accepted a full-time, first-year spot at York than last year. Mr. English said York might feel a financial strain if Jewish students continue to feel intimidated. “Well, we know that many Jewish donors to the university are very concerned … many Jewish donors have spoken in the most honest terms, in the most candid terms with [Mr. Shoukri] and other administration officials,” he said. Mr. English said that he is not aware of a “mass withdrawl” of donations at this point, but said “the longer an atmosphere exists at York which is considered by many Jewish students to be intimidating or hostile, the greater the risk of donors withdrawing funds.”
By Nadav Shragai and Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz Correspondents
A Jerusalem magistrate court ruled last week that a Hebron settler who shouted “Heil Sharon” – a reference to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon – at a police officer while making a stiff-armed Nazi salute should not be tried for insulting a public sector worker.
The magistrate judge, Hagit Mac-Kalmanovich, determined that if the settler had used the word “Nazi” or a similar word in referring to the police officers, or if the settler had uttered “Heil Hitler” or a similar statement which implied that the officers are Nazis or resemble Nazis, this would undoubtedly have constituted a crime.
Mac-Kalmanovich acquitted Oren Zer, a resident of Hebron, of insulting a public figure. Zer is the brother of Gilad Zer, who was killed by Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank. The outpost of Havat Gilad was founded in his memory.
In September 2005, prosecutors served Zer with an indictment, alleging that he approached two police officers on duty near Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, held his arm erect as if to imitate a Nazi salute, a shouted “Heil Sharon” in their direction.
Prosecutors argued that if the prime minister was compared to Hitler, then naturally the officers are the equivalent of policemen under the Nazi regime.
Zer did not deny making the gesture, though he claimed it was an act of protest and anger against “the expulsion of Jews” from the Gaza Strip. Sharon’s government evacuated some 8,000 Israelis from settlements in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, a move which touched off massive protests among settlers and their right-wing supporters.
In his statement to police, Zer said his intention was to express “strenuous disgust from the regime of corruption, brutality, and terror that was led by a destroyer of Israel, Ariel Sharon … the criticism was of course about him, about Sharon, and I stand behind it.”
“I believe he carried out crimes against humanity and against the Jewish people in destroying 25 Jewish communities in the Land of Israel,” Zer told police.
By Uri Avnery
First of all, I want to apologize to all the good women who are engaged in the world’s oldest profession.
I recently described Shimon Peres as a political prostitute. One of my female readers has protested vigorously. Prostitutes, she pointed out, earn their money honestly. They deliver what they promise.
Israel’s president, on the other hand, only tells the truth by accident. He is a political impostor and a political sham. To him, too, apply Winston Churchill’s words about a former prime minister: “The right honorable gentleman sometimes stumbles upon the truth, but he always hurries on as if nothing has happened.” Or the words of former minister Amnon Rubinstein about Ariel Sharon: “He blushes when he tells the truth.”
Like a traveling salesman offering a counterfeit product, Peres is now peddling the merchandise called Binyamin Netanyahu. He presents to the world a Netanyahu we have never known: a peacemaker, the epitome of truthfulness, a man with no other ambition than to go down in history as the founder of the state of Palestine. A Righteous Jew to outshine all Righteous Gentiles.
However, all these lies are nothing compared to trivializing the Holocaust.
In some countries, that is a criminal offense, punishable by prison. The trivializing has many guises. For example: the assertion that the gas chambers never existed. Or: that not 6 million Jews were killed, but only six hundred thousand. But the most dangerous form of minimizing is the comparison of the Holocaust to passing events, thus turning it into “a detail of history,” as Jean-Marie Le-Pen infamously put it.
This week, Shimon Peres committed exactly this crime.
Like a lackey walking in front of the king, strewing flowers on the road, Peres flew to the U.S. to prepare the ground for Netanyahu’s coming visit. He imposed himself on a reluctant Barack Obama, who had no choice but to receive him.
Posing as a new Winston Churchill, the man who warned the world against the rise of Nazi Germany, he informed Obama with solemn bombast: “As Jews we cannot but compare Iran to Nazi Germany.”
About this sentence at least three things must be said: (a) it is untrue, (b) it trivializes the Holocaust, and (c) it reflects a catastrophic policy.
Does Iran really resemble Nazi Germany?
I don’t like the regime there. As a committed atheist who insists on total separation between state and religion, I oppose any regime based on religion – in Iran, in Israel, or in any other country.
Also, I don’t like politicians like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I am allergic to leaders who stand on balconies and declaim to the masses below. I detest demagogues who appeal to the base instincts of hatred and fear.
Alas, Ahmadinejad is not the only leader of this type. Indeed, the world is full of them; some are among the staunchest supporters of the Israeli government. In Israel, too, we do not lack this sort.
But Iran is not a fascist state. According to the evidence, there is quite a lot of freedom there, including freedom of expression. Ahmadinejad is not the only candidate for president in the present election campaign. There are a number of others, some more radical, some less.
Nor is Iran an anti-Semitic state. A Jewish community, whose members are refusing to emigrate, is living there comfortably enough. It enjoys religious freedom and has a representative in parliament. Even if we take such reports with a grain of salt, it is clear that the Jews in Iran are not being persecuted like the Jews in Nazi Germany.
And, most important: Iran is not an aggressive country. It has not attacked its neighbors for centuries. The long and bloody Iraq-Iran war was started by Saddam Hussein. It may be remembered that at the time Israel (contrary to the U.S.) supported the Iranian side and supplied it with arms. (One such transaction was accidentally disclosed in the Irangate affair.) Before the Khomeini revolution, Iran was our most important ally in the region.
Ahmadinejad hates Israel. But it has been denied that he has threatened to annihilate Israel. It appears that the crucial sentence in his famous speech was mistranslated: he did not declare his determination to wipe Israel off the map, but expressed the opinion that Israel will disappear from the map.
Frankly, I don’t think that there is such a great difference between the two versions. When the leader of a big country predicts that my state will disappear, that makes me worry. When that country appears to do everything possible to produce a nuclear bomb, that worries me even more. I draw conclusions, but about that later.
Moreover, Ahmadinejad – unlike Hitler – is not the supreme leader of his country. He is subject to the real leadership, composed of clerics. All the signs indicate that this is not a group of adventurers. On the contrary, they are very balanced, sophisticated, and prudent. Now they are cautiously feeling their way toward dialogue with the U.S., trying to reach an accord without sacrificing their regional ambitions, which are quite normal.
In brief, the speeches of one demagogic leader do not turn a country into Nazi Germany. Iran is not a mad country. It has no real interests in Israel/Palestine. Its interests are focused on the Persian Gulf area, and it wants to increase its influence throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Its relations with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas mostly serve this purpose, and so does the anti-Israeli incitement of Ahmadinejad.
In brief, the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany lacks a factual basis.
From the Jewish point of view, the comparison is even more objectionable.
The Holocaust was a unique crime. True, the 20th century has seen other terrible acts of genocide, but they did not resemble the Shoah. In the Ottoman empire, a horrifying massacre of the Armenian citizens took place, which amounted to genocide. Hitler himself mentioned it, saying that the annihilation of the Jews would similarly be forgotten. Stalin killed millions of Soviet citizens in the name of a monstrous ideology, which had started as a humanist creed. So did Pol Pot, who killed millions in order to change society for the better. In Rwanda, members of one tribe slaughtered the members of another. And, alas, the list goes on.
But Nazi Germany was unique in employing the instruments of a modern industrial society in order to eliminate helpless minorities (let’s not forget the Roma, those with disabilities, and homosexuals) in a prolonged, planned, and highly organized process, with the participation of all the organs of the state. If the Nazi regime had not been overthrown by war, Hitler would have continued with the annihilation of many more millions of Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians.
Nothing like that can reasonably be expected to happen in Iran. Neither the ideology nor the composition of the regime nor any other indication leads in that direction. As far as its growing nuclear capabilities are concerned, the Israeli deterrent power will prevent any such thought from arising. (Let’s not forget that the only country ever to use nuclear bombs in war was our friend, the USA.)
Nothing that is happening in the world today resembles the Shoah, in which six million Jews were wiped out. The Palestinians did not kill six million Israelis, and we did not kill 6 million Palestinians. Comparing the Arabs to the Nazis is no less odious than comparing the Israelis to the Nazis. Many terrible things have been and are being committed in our name – but they are as far from the deeds of the Nazis as the earth is from distant galaxies.
Any such comparison for the sake of some fleeting propaganda advantage is trivializing the Holocaust and its perpetrators. If the Nazis were not worse than the ayatollahs, then the Shoah was not so terrible, after all.
In all my contacts with Palestinian leaders, including Yasser Arafat, I have always advised them to avoid this upsetting comparison. This would also be good advice for our own leaders.
Does the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany serve Israeli interests?
Iran is there. It was our ally in the past, and may be our ally again in the future. Leaders come and go, but geopolitical interests are more or less constant. Ahmadinejad may be replaced by a leader who will see Iranian interests in a different light.
The nuclear threat to Israel will not disappear – not after a (bad) speech by Peres nor after a (good) speech by Netanyahu. All over the region, nuclear installations will pop up. This process cannot be stopped. We all need nuclear energy to desalinate water and to produce electricity without destroying the environment. As an Israeli professor, a former employee in the nuclear center at Dimona, said this week: we must reconsider our nuclear policy. It may well be to our advantage to accept the demand of the American spokeswoman that Israel (as well as India and Pakistan) join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a regime of strict supervision.
President Barack Obama is now saying to Israel: Put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is a precondition for the elimination of the threat to Israel. When the Palestinians, and the entire Arab world, make peace with Israel, Iran will not be able to exploit the conflict for the furthering of its interests. We were saying this, by the way, many years ago.
The refusal of Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak to accept this demand shows the insincerity of their arguments about Iran. If they really believed that Iran posed an existential menace, they would hurry to dismantle the settlements, demolish the outposts, and make peace. That would, after all, be a small price to pay for the elimination of an existential danger. Their refusal proves that the entire existential story is a bluff.
And concerning the comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany: it is as convincing as the comparison of Shimon Peres to Sir Winston.