Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I am afraid

I’m afraid. Let me try to explain why. I was born four years after the end of the Second World War. Throughout my childhood and early youth, I was taught about why that war had been fought, why it had been essential to defeat Nazi Germany, and why we must never let something like that happen again. Above all, it was instilled in me that we must never allow a second Holocaust to happen. It had been the greatest crime in human history, and the Nazis had been the greatest criminals of all time.
The worst thing about the Third Reich was that it came to power in a modern nation, a nation that prided itself on its culture, its science, its legal system, its religious and social values. This was the horror, that something primitive, bestial, and anti-human came out of what both Germans and their neighbours considered a civilized and progressive people. Even today, when we read or watch newsreels about the Reich, the Nazi Party, the SS, the vast apparatus of that singular evil, we are confronted by a cold-hearted wickedness that has no parallel in modern history. It remains the supreme evil of modern times, despite the emergence of many tyrannies and tyrants since its time.
When we think of German fascism, we think of the ruthlessness of the blitzkrieg, the extermination of villages, the destruction of Warsaw, the mass killings of Jews by einzatsgruppen, the torture and murder refined by the Gestapo, the utter abuse of innocence by a conscious option for evil, and, above all, the death camps. To my generation, the swastika and the totenkopf, the chic black uniforms, the rallies, the goose-stepping formations, the diving stukas, the barbed wire, the piano-wire hangings, the gas chambers, the watchtowers, the jackboots, the Hitlergrüss salutes, the lightning-flash SS badges, the black coats of the secret police, the U-boat packs, and the overweening arrogance all spoke of one thing: an evil so removed from good that it should never be repeated, however long the human race endures.
I began by saying I am afraid. Afraid of what? Of the truth that, just over sixty years after the end of that long and costly war, after the Nuremberg trials that laid bare Germany’s infamy, after the sorrow and grief that consumed Europe and Russia, I hear our understanding of that evil abused. It is as if a new generation has forgotten what Nazism was all about, as if all our common understandings have been twisted until they are no longer recognizable.
In what way? In the repeated statements found among sections of the left and centre that describe Israelis as Nazis, that speak of a ‘Palestinian Holocaust’, that define Israel as the new Reich and its actions on a par with those of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. It is scarcely possible to say how sick and frightened it makes me to read such remarks, not least when I realize that they are often made by seemingly intelligent, well-educated people. What is worse, they have become part of a wider distortion of historical truth that denies the Holocaust, blames the Jews for having provoked Hitler and everyone who ever persecuted them throughout history, and finds an excuse for its anti-Semitism in mealy-mouthed declarations of guiltlessness: ‘I am only anti-Zionist’.
So let’s put some of this to rest. Leaving aside the Suez debacle (in which Britain and France were also involved), Israel has only ever fought defensive wars. Again and again, Israelis have fought, not just for their own lives, but for the life of their nation — a nation created to provide a haven for Jews in a world that had just disposed of six million of them. They have never used the total war tactics of the Nazis, nor have they once envisaged the genocide of the Palestinians. If they had really been Nazis, does anyone imagine they would have left a Palestinian alive? If they really used Nazi military tactics, do you think the death toll in the recent war in Lebanon would have been around 1,000, most of the dead Hizbullah guerrillas?
There’s simply no point in using derogatory terms like ‘Nazi’, ‘genocidal’, or ‘racist’ if they don’t fit. And such language doesn’t fit Israel. Criticize Israel by all means — Israelis do it all the time — but play fair. Too many people on the Left have betrayed their own ideals of honesty and justice by demonizing a people whose only wish is for peace and security. There are things wrong about Israel, and you should take care to identify them and write to your nearest Israeli embassy about them: you’ll find a listening ear, and maybe your criticisms will do real good. But there’s no point in standing on street corners with a megaphone, yelling to the general public that Israelis are Nazis, because only someone as badly informed as yourself will listen to you.
What frightens me more than anything, though, is the hypocrisy. Left-wingers and liberals always had an honourable history of opposition to anti-Semitism. They stood up for Jews, in the same way Jews in the 60s were among the most active figures in the American Civil Rights Movement. Back in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, it was a matter of honour for liberals to defend the Jews in their own countries and Israel abroad. But now? The Left has sold out totally to the lure of anti-Semitism. ‘We only hate Israel,’ you say? Then why have so many left-wingers and liberals joined forces with the Palestinians and other Arabs, or with Iranians or Pakistanis, whose cultures are saturated with the most obnoxious anti-Jewish imagery and rhetoric that has existed outside the Third Reich? I’m not talking here about something half-hidden, some dirty secret that you might well not have come across. I’m talking about mainstream TV shows, broadcasts on a variety of national radio stations, children’s cartoons, school textbooks, mosque sermons, and large political rallies.
It’s all there: the hooked noses, the grasping hands, the conspiracies, the sacrifice of Christian and Muslim children, the mixing of their blood with matzo flour, the secret cabals, the sheer Nazi-like horror of the filthy, blood-sucking, world-dominating Jew. If you think you’re a liberal, then what in God’s name induces you to throw in your lot with real Nazism and pour scorn on Jews who have been fighting for their lives for well over sixty years?
You say you haven’t seen any of this? Then you really are a fool to give your support to a society you know next to nothing about. You consider Hamas ‘freedom fighters’: have you noticed the salute they give in rallies? You think of Hizbullah as ‘heroes of the resistance’: have you ever seen how they salute? If it was Hitler up on the podium, no-one would be surprised.
This all requires a more detailed discussion. For the moment, I will only say that this link between modern Arab anti-Semitism and the Third Reich variety is not accidental. While Jews were dying in Auschwitz and Buchenwald and Birkenau, the Palestinian leadership was collaborating with the Reich, recruiting troops for the SS, and planning to build a death camp in Hebron. Jew-hating fascism did not die with the overthrow of the Third Reich: it moved to the Arab world where, believe it or not, the world’s liberals now sing its praises, thinking they are fighting for Palestinian freedom. If you are still in any doubt about how sick this is, read the Hamas Covenant, which openly calls for the slaughter of all the Jews in Israel, or early documents of Hizbullah, where the same aim is made explicit, or the more recent calls by the Iranian president, Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, to wipe Israel from the map. They want to finish the job Hitler started. Don’t take my word for it, read any of the books and pamphlets in which just this claim is made. I forgot, you probably don’t read Arabic. I do. Don’t you think that you, as an intelligent and open-minded liberal, might actually base your view of this on something more solid than a couple of articles in The Guardian? I read The Guardian too, but I don’t swallow everything its extraordinarily biased op-eds say about the Middle East.
Where does this leave us? You, the anti-Israel liberal, me, the pro-Israel liberal. At loggerheads, I suppose. But there is a difference: I believe in your inherent goodness because some sort of love of humanity must inform your political options, your love of free speech, of human rights, of the right of all peoples to independence and nationhood. I know you are impelled to support the Palestinian cause because of such imperatives, and I admire your impulse. But I also think — or, rather, know — that you are ignorant, perhaps profoundly so. Otherwise, I cannot in all conscience imagine why you would so freely give your voice and your actions to support a people who seek only genocide, and withhold your support from the very people that has suffered the greatest act of genocide in the last or any other century.
If you believe in the self-determination of peoples, why do you condemn the establishment of the single state of Israel, the only Jewish state in two thousand years? From the very beginning, the people of Israel have sought for the creation of an Arab state next to theirs. Given peace and security, there are few limits to what Israel would do to make a Palestinian state an economic and cultural success. They have never talked of genocide. The Palestinians talk of little else. Hamas explicitly rejects peace treaties, peace conferences, compromises, and negotiations. Why would a peace-loving liberal extend the hand of greeting to such intransigence and spit on the hand that offers all of that and more? If liberals can support the worst sort of anti-Semitism, doesn’t that open the way to forces that will crush us all, Jews and non-Jews alike?
Now do you understand why I am afraid?

3 comments:

irenelancaster said...

Your blog is most timely and as you will see from Ruth Gledhill's Articles of Faith blog and also my own (IreneLancaster's Diary), these nice people who accept fascism when it stems from Islam are the most dangerous of all.

Since I have been living in Haifa, I have been amazed at the way Jews and Arabs of all religions live and work together.

In Europe, appeasement is definitely at work again and people like you must carry on putting them right.

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SnoopyTheGoon said...

I am not sure whether the use of "Nazi" and similar name-calling is more dangerous than the artful mixture of lies and half-truths used by the more adroit "anti-Zionists". I don't know whether you had a chance to look at this

This character is more dangerous, I believe.

Cheers.