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Israel/Nazi analogy deeply hurtful to Jewish people

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MARY KLUK

By Mary Kluk – Chairman SAJBD

One of the most objectionable recurring themes in the flood of anti-Israel invective provoked by the Gaza conflict was the ready comparisons made between Israel’s actions and the crimes of the Nazis. It goes without saying that those resorting to such terminology were not attempting to present a reasoned, fact-based argument; rather, the aim was to demonize Israel as much as possible, depicting it as being so beyond the pale of basic human values as to render impossible any kind of defence on its behalf.

Not only does such language seek to bludgeon people into dismissing out of hand any attempt at defending Israel, but results in those who do so being tarred with the Nazi brush and as apologists for genocide.

In its battle to counter this kind of ugly discourse, the SAJBD has time and again appealed to the public not to be swayed by such politically and emotionally charged hyperbole. We have pointed out the inappropriateness of misusing the Holocaust analogy when it comes to Israel, both because it is grossly untrue and because it is deeply hurtful and demeaning to Jewish people.

Comparisons between Israel and the Nazi regime are obscene, not only because they are so grossly defamatory towards the Jewish State but because they belittle the unspeakable crimes of Nazism itself.

Sensationalist shock tactics insensitive

It is self-evident that casualties resulting from a necessary and unavoidable military operation – casualties that Israel goes to considerable lengths to minimise – cannot be remotely equated with the systematic mass murder of millions solely on account of their being Jewish.

It is not only with regard to Israel that inappropriate Holocaust imagery and terminology has been used. Earlier this year, for example, an animal rights activist was taken to task for likening the treatment of pigs awaiting slaughter to death camp victims. Such sensationalist shock tactics are deeply insensitive, and must be condemned in the strongest terms.   

In light of these objections, and the efforts we are making to persuade people to be more sensitive in their choice of language, it is therefore particularly upsetting to see the very same misuse of the Holocaust/Nazi analogy coming from within our own community. I refer here to the article in the SAJR online headed ARCH NO BETTER THAN HITLER OR STALIN SAYS REICH. The offensiveness of the piece itself was compounded by an accompanying image of Tutu with a Hitler-style moustache and Nazi officer’s cap.

Regardless of what one might think about Archbishop Tutu’s attitude and actions towards Israel, attacking him in such terms is puerile and wantonly insulting. It is also, of course, without basis.

Be robust, but not crude or insulting

Does anyone really believe that Tutu is at bottom no better than Hitler and Stalin, two of the worst mass murderers in history? I doubt whether any sensible person would accept that view, and that includes the writer himself, whatever he may have written. What, then, was he hoping to achieve by attacking Tutu in such extreme terms?

It is one thing to take strong issue with someone’s views on Israel and if desired to express this in a robust manner. This, however, does not constitute a license to be crudely insulting, nor to make demeaning comparisons that are so obviously exaggerated as to constitute outright falsehoods.

Accusing someone of being a Nazi when this is obviously not the case falls into that category, and is wrong, whether it comes from those aiming to wound and insult the Jewish state and Jews in general, or whether it emanates from those wishing to defend Israel against its detractors.

It is a misuse of our history, and serves in the end to undermine the work of those who seek to convey the truth of what occurred during the Holocaust and what humanity at large should learn from this.

  • The image referred to has been removed – online editor

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Daniel Friedman

    Sep 11, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    ‘Yet it’s ok for you to publish a piece by Tony Reich accusing Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu of being a Nazi? So it’s ok to trivialise the holocaust when referencing one of South Africa’s most respected people but not when referencing Israel? And your publication’s editors seem oblivious to what a massive double standard that is.’

  2. Sue

    Sep 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    ‘Thank you Mary, for having the courage to take issue in this public space with the vile rantings of Reich. I am extremely disappointed with the SAJR for publishing that shocking piece. What kind of editorial standards do they have? Your well-reasoned rebuttal gives me hope that common sense and dignity can still prevail on public platforms.’

  3. kev abraham

    Sep 12, 2014 at 1:55 am

    ‘I am absolutely disgusted at your editorial decison to post a picture of Tutu as Hitler. How absolutely, childishly spiteful!  This picture is now removed? No, it is not. It will be in every newspaper by the end of the day. It is a stain on every Jew; How dare you post such a thing in our name? ‘

  4. asher

    Sep 12, 2014 at 5:43 am

    ‘Great article.  Thank you Mary.’

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