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March 3, 2010

The Holocaust, old and new

The Canadian Charger

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Did the world learn anything from the Holocaust? Did its victims and their progeny? These are questions that have been raised about the situation of the Palestinians.

In both the Holocaust and in the treatment of Palestinians by Zionist Jews, we see similar factors at play—fear, which justifies attack, desensitization to violence, the rise to authority of elements which in the past were seen as beyond the pale, extremist elements which in the past were disparaged. 

The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote of the I-thou relationship as being a binding of soul to soul, a deep and personal intimacy.  He contrasted that with the I-it relationship, where the Other is dehumanized—the Jew in Nazi Germany, the Palestinian in Israel/Palestine.

Nazi ideology identified whole categories of people as untermenschen.  Jews were characterized as rich capitalists bleeding the German people and simultaneously as Communists threatening the stability of society. 

Anti-Arab prejudice is widespread in Israel. Palestinians are seen as threatening, wanting to drive the Jews into the sea.  They are seen as bloodthirsty and primitive.  “Us or them.”

In the Holocaust, beginnings resembled the lynch mob atmosphere—Kristallnacht. Then things settled down again, but the discrimination and eventually the atrocities grew, with the leadership of the society carrying on what had previously been mass behavior in a now formal program.  This picture omits the conflict between the new Nazi élite and the old conservative Junker élite, but that left the Junkers deprived of their status.

The situation in Israel/Palestine involves a Zionist Jewish tough-guy self-image. 

Zionists talk of the New Jew, no longer subservient.  The New Jew is aggressive.  Most likely, he is blond and blue-eyed. 

There are two sides to the New Jew, the Jewish knight and warrior.  On the one hand, there is the principle that he fights according to all the rules—Purity of Arms. 

On the other, there are incidents in which the unsavory element commits unspeakable acts—Deir Yassin and the murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, for example.  But these acts are, it is argued, acts of the uncouth—Irgun and the Stern Gang.

Now, however, the former leaders of these formations and members of their political party offspring are in charge of the country. 

The Palestinians are untermenschen, whose homes can be stolen (as in Jerusalem) or destroyed (in the Occupied Territories). 

The anti-Palestinian depredations of fanatical young settlers are semi-restrained by authorities, but on the other hand the Israeli government has secretly and illegally funded the proliferation of settlements that even it describes as illegal. 

The depredations include attacks on children going to school, attacks on farmers and destruction of their olive trees, theft of farm animals and other property, etc. 

Is there a difference between the Nazis and the Israelis?  To pose the question is to answer it.  There is a considerable difference. 

While Palestinians have been robbed, ghettoized, and mistreated, the magnitude of the Holocaust has certainly not been replicated.  And while virtually the entire political and social structure in Nazi Germany engaged in the effort to destroy the Jews, the situation in Israel is not remotely similar. 

The ideology of “Purity of Arms” has had a certain hold.  Thus, some Israeli soldiers who served in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza became involved in an organization, Breaking the Silence, which issued a booklet detailing the inhumane nature of that military campaign—shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later examples of senseless killings induced by a combination of fear and excitement, use of human shields, reports of rabbis to the troops demonizing all Palestinians, use of white phosphorus.

In Germany, a few brave churchmen stood up against Hitler.  In Israel, opposition to repression of the Palestinians is more significant.  Even the children of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have resisted the racist onslaught.  One of his sons refused military service in the Territories and left the country.  Another son left before entering the military.  A daughter takes part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations. 

Bottom line: We all need to avoid the I-it syndrome.  We need to be the one voice in the crowd that says no. 

We need to refuse to abandon our humanity because of fear, and we need to look beyond the fear to the reality.   

We need to say no to the new Holocaust against the Palestinians by Zionist Jews in Israel/Palestine.

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