Vile “Jew-baiting” meme disgusts antisemitism experts
Antisemitism experts are disgusted by a meme posted on social media last week by local anti-Israel lobby group Africa4Palestine which compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
Africa4Palestine, which professes to be a human-rights advocacy group, posted the meme last Tuesday, 29 March, on Facebook and Twitter in the wake of a string of deadly Palestinian terrorist attacks which left Israel reeling.
Titled “a quick history guide”, the meme shows an Israeli flag on the top left hand side and the flag of Nazi Germany next to it on the right.
Underneath the two flags written in bold capital letters it reads, “History lesson: one of these flags represents the nation responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians to clear way for living space of the chosen race. They have done this for the last seven decades without interference from the international community, claiming that their genocidal policies and systematic invasion of another’s land is ‘defensive’. The other flag belongs to Nazi Germany.”
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRM) Working Definition of Antisemitism – considered the gold standard in understanding antisemitism – a contemporary example of antisemitism is to compare contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Claiming that the state of Israel behaves towards Palestinians like the Nazis did to the Jews is antisemitic. Portraying Jews to be Nazis and claiming that they are committing genocide against the Palestinians is antisemitic.
Local antisemitism expert and emeritus professor of history at the University of Cape Town, Milton Shain, said that to compare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the systematic and intentional murder of Jews at the hands of the Nazis was “simplistic and uninformed”.
“Africa4Palestine has every right to focus on the sufferings and aspirations of Palestinians, but in this post, it has demonstrated a crudity that has become its hallmark. This is propaganda at its most distasteful.”
Professor Karen Milner, the chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said equating Israel with Nazi Germany was an ugly antisemitic taunt and fully intended as such.
“In levelling it, Africa4Palestine is perfectly aware not only that the comparison is scandalously false and a distortion of history, but that it will be especially wounding and demeaning to Jews, the primary victims of Nazi tyranny,” she said.
“It would appear that Africa4Palestine, perhaps as a result of its frustration over its failure to make any headway in terms of promoting an anti-Israel boycott, is dispensing with the fiction that it’s a ‘human-rights organisation’ and revealing itself for what it is – a bigoted, extremist lobby bent on demonising and defaming the Jewish state to the maximum extent possible and quite willing to resort to in-your-face Jew-baiting in pursuit of that end,” said Milner.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) said in January this year that drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to the Nazis was a form of Holocaust inversion and distortion.
“Comparing Israeli policy towards Palestinians with Nazi policy regarding Jews is an example of Holocaust inversion, where reality is inverted [the Israelis are cast as the ‘new’ Nazis and the Palestinians as the ‘new’ Jews], and an inversion of morality [the Holocaust is presented as a moral lesson for, or even a moral indictment of, ‘the Jews’].”
It said Holocaust inversion acted as a force against identifying the changing nature of contemporary antisemitism and creating a cohesive coalition against it. After all, who would want to defend modern-day Nazis?
One of the world’s foremost antisemitism experts, Professor Yehuda Bauer, told the SA Jewish Report this social media post wasn’t just dangerous, but blatant antisemitism.
“This is, of course, nothing new. Comparing Israeli policies with those of Nazi Germany is nonsense. Israel is no dictatorship, there are no concentration camps, no mass killings, but there is the struggle between two ethnic groups over a piece of land, with casualties on both sides. This is dangerous nonsense.”
Bauer is professor emeritus of history and Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and academic advisor to Yad Vashem.
“These people deal only with Palestine-Israel. We haven’t heard from them regarding mass killings in Kashmir, Myanmar, China [the Uyghurs], and a host of other places. Only the Jews are of interest, so we’re dealing with antisemitism,” he said.
“This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians, but you can express your dissent freely in Israel and in the occupied territories. I think one should not so much try and defend Israel, but attack the authors as antisemites who are a danger to South African society because they revive ethnic and ‘racial’ hatred by false accusations. They do, in fact, follow Nazi propaganda traditions, and this should be stated.”
Another international political scientist told the SA Jewish Report, “I don’t want to add value to this crap with my comment. This is just too disgusting.”
Africa4Palestine has consistently accused the West of double standards when it comes to the devastating war in Ukraine, bemoaning how the Palestinian cause has faded into the background as the West renders much-needed assistance to war-torn Ukraine.
Experts fear an uptick in vicious anti-Israel rhetoric during the month of Ramadan, with upcoming religious holy days for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Rowan Polovin, the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, said, “It’s abhorrent and deeply hurtful for our Jewish community to endure these odious statements from the antisemitic Africa4Palestine organisation that deliberately and egregiously compares the horrors of the Nazis to Israeli actions in order to insult and injure living Jewry alongside the memory of the Holocaust.”
He said the Facebook post went beyond a simple comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. “Africa4Palestine is making a horrific attempt to whitewash the unspeakable actions of Nazi Germany, and we condemn this in the strongest terms.”
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a territorial and political one, whereas the Holocaust was the attempt to systematically annihilate European Jewry,” the WJC said. “In spite of the unfortunate outbreak of violence during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian population has grown by all metrics, and is projected to continue doing so. To compare this to the murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust is preposterous and diminishes the pain of those who have suffered during the conflict.”
The WJC said further, “Following the creation of the state of Israel, Palestinians coined the term ‘Nakba’, Arabic for ‘catastrophe’, in an attempt to draw a comparison with the Holocaust, known in Hebrew as ‘the Shoah’, meaning ‘catastrophe’. This attempts to derail from the singularity of the Holocaust while simultaneously creating a false equivalency. Comparing the creation of the state of Israel to the systematic extermination of the Jews is at best inaccurate and deeply offensive to Jews around the world.”
The SA Jewish Report attempted to get comment from Africa4Palestine, but it didn’t respond by the time of publication.