Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why Israelis aren't Nazis

By

Gert Meyers (UK), owner of this blog

and

David Zarnett (Canada). David is a postgraduate student at King's College, University of London. His current research interests pertain to anti-war movements and, more specifically, Edward Said's writings on Iraq through the 1990s up until 2003 as well as the anti-war movement's response to Christopher Hitchen's endorsement of the Iraq War.

Recently, the Scottish branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign invited Gilad Atzmon to come speak at a fundraiser. Atzmon has been the target of much controversy for his likening Israel to Nazi Germany and at times argues that by calling Hitler the worst evil the world has ever seen lets Israel “off the hook.” The comparison between Zionism, Israel and even Israelis and the Nazis is commonly heard. Like Atzmon’s belief, it is not borne out of a desire to accurately describe Zionism but rather is a public relations tool used to simplify and demonize. Let’s take a look at this analogy.

In order to develop a singular description of Zionism, many confuse the terms they are using. Many who make the Zionist-Nazi analogy almost always make the Zionism-colonialism analogy as well. This is partially due to the fact that these people are at odds to show that the way Israel has treated the Palestinians is equal to the way the Nazis treated the Jews.

Colonialism was a historical process leading both Islamic and European empires to send their inhabitants, often against their will or through extortion, to settle and colonize an area to which they had no previous connection in an effort to bring that area under their political system. The relationship between the colony and the Mother Country was exploitative: the colony’s resources were extracted and sent back to the colonial power. Little investment was made in the colony itself. By contrast, Zionism was a voluntary social movement, consisting of people who actually believed in their connection to Palestine and were willing to invest in the land there. The European Jews who became Zionist felt that there was no other solution to an untenable existence in European society especially considering that during the rise of nationalism the Jew was identified as alien. Zionism was thus the product of two historical processes: the yearning to return to the Land of Israel that many Jews felt, as well as centuries of persecution in Europe. The comparison between Zionism and colonialism is misleading and confuses both of these social movements. The comparison only works if we ignore the context of Jewish life in Europe.

It should be said, however, that the comparison is not entirely flawed. In regards to the relationship between the Zionist-Jewish settlers and the local Arab-Palestinians there are some indications of a colonial relationship and this fact was exacerbated after 1967. But this was not predetermined. There were many Zionists, and prominent ones at that, like Arthur Ruppin and Yitzhak Epstein, who advocated against this type of relationship. Unfortunately, conditions on the ground such as a pervasive feeling of fear in the ‘Yishuv’, general but not wholesale ignorance of Arab culture, the inability of Ottoman authorities to preserve law and order, and banditry, led to a very undesirable relationship between Jews and Arabs.

One of the first to make the connection between Israel and the Nazi State was the British historian Arnold Toynbee. But this comparison did not stay hidden in academic discourse. When making this comparison, it is common for differences to be cast aside, and any trace of similarity to be used to make it as if Israeli and Nazi society are suddenly alike if not identical. For example, any reference to “improving the Jewish race” by Zionists in the early 20th century is used as evidence to show that Zionism and Nazism share an affinity for Eugenics. But many at this time all over the world shared an affinity for the study of Eugenics. Should we identify the universities that spent their resources on the study of eugenics as Nazi institutions? If so, then we are making Eugenics that exclusive preserve of the Nazis. This is not true.

It is quite clear that Israel has many serious problems in its relationship with its Arab minority as well as the Arabs living in the Occupied Territories. Widespread discrimination and racism do exist and, as in many countries, there is room for much improvement. Israeli writer, and Zionist, David Grossman recently called on the nation to wake up to racism in society. Can anyone imagine Himmler, Eichmann or Goehring saying such a thing?

Palestinian-Arab-Israelis, as they are most accurately called today, have Arab representatives in the Knesset, are able to mobilize politically as indicated by the many Arab NGO’s, like Adalah and Masawa, that exist today and have the right to petition the Supreme Court in defence of their rights. The Occupation worsens this relationship and needs to end.

Further dissimilarities exist. In regards to Israel's territorial ambitions, Nazi Germany strove to conquer the whole of Europe. Those unaware of the situation in the Middle East may make the claim that Israel has designs for the region. Like any state existing in our international system, Israel seeks to foster friendly governments in the region with which it can deal. This is not specific to Israel and is the law of nature in a system where a country’s main concern is its survival. Regardless, Israel has never expressed the same ambitions as the Nazi’s did. At worst some Israelis (and by far not all) want to make the whole of Israel and Palestine an integral part of the Jewish state. In Israeli society, there is very considerable debate and a broad range of opinions regarding the creation of a Greater Israel. But today, most mainstream political parties accept the reality of the two-state solution. In Nazi Germany such a debate would not have been possible and in Nazi circles it did not exist.

Furthermore, Zionists are frequently charged with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs. One Zionist narrative says they left on their own volition and were also pressured out by the Arab Higher Committee as well as invading Arab armies in 1948. The opposing narrative says the Palestinians were subject to an ethnic cleansing resembling what happened with the Nazi invasion of Poland or even the Serb Chetnik attacks against Croats. Neither narrative provides the truth. The fact is that no outright plan of expulsion was adopted by the nascent Israeli government in 1947 who was prepared to have a large Arab minority in their state. Instances of ethnic cleansing did occur along side extensive voluntary flights by many Palestinians. Many of the elites also left when they heard of the possibility of war. This fractured Palestinian society and left it with no local leadership to lead them through a traumatic period. Further, the ethnic cleansing would have not occurred had UN Partition plan of 1947 come to fruition. What many refer to simply as the dispossession of the Palestinians is far more complex than the Zionist-Nazi analogy conveys and usually those who believe in such an analogy have never taken the time to really learn about the topic and its multiple nuances and complexities.

What is most unhelpful about this comparison is that it relies on reductionism. The comparison is one that is fit for mass political movements that rely on short, quick chants, placards and slogans. Mass political movements provide no room for nuance; the crowds simply don’t want to be hindered by the facts when marching for a cause.

Zionism is a diverse ideology with numerous schools of thought. Zionist ideology also includes the idea of bi-nationalism as well as the notion of shared racial characteristics with Arabs. Regarding mainstream Zionism as practiced in Israel, Nazi ideas don't come into play if we consider the widespread support for a two-state solution and the opposition to ethnic cleansing. Extremist ideas do exist within a certain fringe minority but Israel is hardly unique in that respect. There are also many progressive Zionists who desire complete equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The term Nazi is not only being levelled at Israel but also at its opponents as well as its major ally ("The Fourth Reich"). For instance, if we consider the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, history shows that crimes have been committed on both sides. A detailed reading of the events, from 1967 to the present, shows numerous instances where Hamas and other radical groups have committed acts of terror for the sole purpose of disrupting the peace process. With resistance to the occupation this has nothing to do: some extremists do indeed want to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic republic. These too could be compared to Nazis (by that definition) and many do (the “Islamonazis of Hamas”). But it isn’t likely to make these groups change their mind and accept a negotiated settlement. Use of the terms "Islamonazi" or "Islamofascist" is nonetheless strongly on the rise.

In some respects, by making such flawed comparisons, which are unhelpful as well as incorrect, the Nazis are awarded a posthumous victory which they do not in any way deserve. What this comparison also does is to soften the charge against the Nazis. It makes the term Nazi far less meaningful and powerful if it is used with such abandon.

And shouldn't sensitivity be shown for the fact that the Nazis did very actively try to exterminate the Jewish People as a whole? Therefore calling Jews Nazis is particularly offensive and will only lead to further polarisation, not the understanding and plurality which so many strive for. Those using the "Israel = Nazis" comparison are laying themselves wide open to accusations of xenophobia as one of the latter's main characteristics is the stereotyping of entire groups (ethnic, racial, religious or other).

Being critical of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories is perfectly legitimate and defensible but Israel is a democracy with a high degree of internal accountability, something which cannot be said of the Nazi regime which was totalitarian.

12 Comments:

At 8:41 PM, Blogger BEAJ said...

Many, and close to all, who use the term "Zionazi" are either Muslim and/or Jew hater.
There is no comparison. If the Arabs dropped their arms at any point in time, there would be peace.

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Gert said...

BEAJ:

That's wishing upon a star: nobody just surrenders. You are very clearly biased against Arabs. Your blog reeks of that to high heaven.

The essay, BTW, was written in response to the comparison between Israelis and Nazis made by an Irish (not Muslim, not a Jew-hater) blogger (I can prove that). It followed a discussion over at David Zarnett's blog. He recently deleted his blog due to other interests and lack of time.

You constantly jump to conclusions and think a lot of yourself, yet I catch you out on jingoistic thinking, silly and unsubstantiated belief systems, an almost chronic lack of understanding of the nature of empirical evidence and a lot of prejudice. Not too smart, Brightenstein...

It's fairly also typical how about this long and detailed essay you have nothing constructive to say.

PS: I'm not looking for a Noble Peace prize either...

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger BEAJ said...

You read my blog, you know I have nothing constructive to say about stuff like this.
I'm confused though, is Zarnett comparing Israel to Nazis?

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger MillTownAtheist said...

I think that this post is better than the last one, although [as a minor point] I think that the W.W. II Serb-Croat example was a very bizarre one to use.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Mad Zionist said...

Gert, to be fair you truly don't understand the depth of the yishuvnik settler Jews understanding of the arabs and their culture. They do, far more so than you or self-loathing progressive Jews like Atzmon. They are the true Zionist pioneers who believe Israel is rightfully for the Jews, and are living a life of constant peril, often inflicted by the self-loathing Israeli government, to achieve that pursuit regardless of the danger.

Unfortunately, the self-loathing Jews pose a far greater threat to Israel than the arab, who could easily and swiftly be resettled in Jordan if not for the reverse discrimination welfare state being propagated by the "progressives".

If the yishuvniks ever did come to power in Israel the conflict would end within 48 hours and peace would reign supreme in Israel and the spacious Palestinian kingdom of Jordan.

Another error in the nazi analogy garbage is the fact that the nazis genetic racism is totally unrelated to zionism or Judaism. Anyone, black or white or brown, can become a Jew. Obviously this fact is omitted by the anti-Zionists as a tactic of demonization - similar to the propaganda of, yes, the NAZIS!

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gotta agree with BEAJ: what's the point of this post when it's clear to any straight-thinking person that this "comparison" is completely ridiculous. Again, no offense, Gert and I hope you're doing well with your job search;)

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Eitan:

Funny then how not so long ago you agreed in principle to publish it on your blog. Guess I won't have to ask now. Memory lapses bugging you?

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

GertI'm still willing to publish it on my blog because I think both you and David are making steps in the right direction by acknowledging that Zionism and Nazism have nothing in common.

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert: like I said, you just ask and I'll publish your post over @ mine. I'll keep my promise as I usually(well I'm trying for always but ya know...) do.

Take care now and look out! Imminent danger of incoming emails from Eitan;)

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Eitan:

[...] because I think both you and David are making steps in the right [...]

... is a really silly thing to say.

David and I wrote this piece, not because WE need educating but because we wanted to educate THOSE who still use, often in all seriousness, the comparison between Israelis and Nazis.

The piece is based on a discussion between David and I, on the one hand, and an Irish blogger who did use make this comparison, on the other hand. Unfortunately that discussion has now been deleted, together with the rest of David's blog.

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert: thanks for clearing things up. Best,

Eitan.

 
At 9:07 PM, Blogger USpace said...

Well said, of course Israelis aren't Nazis, only insane sick bastards say that...

STOP KUFFARPHOBIA Demo in London, Friday 10/26/07!

I think we all must start calling the Islamofascists 'racists'. We should scream that they are hateful towards the Christian race, and the Jewish race, and the Hindu race, and the Atheist Race, that they are Christianityphobiasts. They will scream that Christianity is not a race, and we'll say:

"See, Islam is NOT a race either.
And by the way, the Bible doesn't say to convert, conquer or kill non-Christians; like the Koran says to do to non-Muslims. So there YOU RACIST hater of non-Muslims! You're a Kuffarphobic!"

Be careful all you in London Friday 10/26!

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
don't call a spade a spade

Islamist terrorism
not related to Islam


absurd thought -
God of the Universe wants
many Taliban planets

stonings and beheadings
billions killed daily


absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
be very afraid...

of saying the wrong things
TRUTH is especially BAD


http://absurdthoughtsaboutgod.blogspot.com
.

 

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