In its quest to deny charges of anti-Semitism within its institutions, the British Labour party has fired some of its senior members because they have criticised Israel’s behaviour and treatment of the Palestinian people and have compared them to Nazi crimes. The problem is that such decisions in Britain and in Europe more generally are not spurring the right amount of debate that is necessary. In fact, such decisions are being treated and considered as “the deserved punishment” against those who dare to criticise Israel and accuse it of carrying out violent acts comparable to those by the Nazis.
While Europe prevents the comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany and continues to punish those who suggest this comparison, we find that high-ranking Zionists and members of the elite in Tel Aviv have not hesitated to admit that Israel is following in Nazi Germany’s footsteps. The deputy head of the Israeli military warned recently that Israeli society has begun to adopt patterns of behaviour similar to the actions that prevailed in 1930s Germany (Haaretz, 5/5). Far right member of the Israeli government and Minister of Environment Avi Gabai has also re-iterated the same sentiments regarding the prevailing sentiments within Israeli society (Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/5).
Chemi Shalev, an Israeli commentator and journalist, has frowned upon the British Labour party’s decision to fire the former mayor of London because he made comparisons between Nazi Germany and Zionism. Shalev went on to write an article about the “1933 Transfer Agreement, Heskem Haavara in Hebrew”, an agreement that was reached between Nazi Germany and the Zionists. This was the main agreement that sparked the beginning of a dangerous wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine (Haaretz, 1/5).
In addition, Professor Zeev Sternhell, who is currently in charge of the department of political science in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and who has described himself as a “super-Zionist”, places particular emphasis on the fascist elements in Israel. His opinion is not only important because he is the author of the book The Birth of Fascist Ideology, which has been translated into seven languages, but also because of his personal background and the fact that the Nazis exterminated everyone in his family.
Yet, Israeli thinker Eitan Bakerman differs from Sternhell in that he believes that the absorption of Nazi values has become a common feature. This institutional racism is practiced by Israelis of all backgrounds and is not limited to a specific ideological background. In an article he published on 4 May, Bakerman argued that “we [the Israelis] are all Nazis” because a society in its entirety cannot stand idly by as an entire Palestinian family is burnt alive, for example. Dr Michael Aharoni, a specialist on Holocaust history has written the following on Israel: “We are living in a state that has practiced full control over the people of another nation. We are living in the shadows of a fascist state that is practicing and implementing hate and intolerance in every corner of its land. There is hatred for any non-Jew living here and we have taken away their rights as human beings.”
Although many members of the political and cultural elite are now warning of Israel’s conduct being reminiscent of Nazi behaviour, it was the prominent Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz who predicted five decades ago that “Israel would turn into another version of Nazi Germany”. Paradoxically, unlike Britain, there is more of a critical dialogue surrounding the nature of Zionist behaviour and comparisons that could be made. In fact, a number of writers have been writing about this phenomenon and have called on one another to stop accusing each other of anti-Semitism. The European cultural and political elite must have the same sense of courage as the Israelis who are critical of Israel’s policies in the 21st century.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 18 May 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.