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Israeli minister's ‘Palestinians are Nazis’ slur reveals a genocidal vision

November 29, 2023 at 3:35 pm

A demonstrator stands with a sign showing the faces of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Nazi Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler during a rally in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza in Algiers on October 19, 2023 [AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s extreme far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich described Palestinians in the West Bank as “Nazis” earlier this week, intensifying the dehumanisation process that enables genocide and ethnic cleansing. “There are two million Nazis in Judea and Samaria,” he told the Times of Israel, using the Biblical term for the occupied West Bank, “who hate us exactly as the Nazis of Hamas-Isis in Gaza do.”

The far-right leader, who is often labelled a Jewish supremacist, is said to have been referring to two surveys this month which found that some two-thirds of West Bank Palestinians supported the raid by Hamas against the occupation state on 7 October.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel and its Western allies. Nevertheless, the movement continues to have support among Palestinians because of its resistance to the decades-long illegal occupation and siege.

Palestinians emphasise that it is legitimate to resist occupation no matter who the occupier is

Palestinians reject comparisons between their right to resist Israel’s occupation and Europe’s historical anti-Semitism and pogroms against Jews. They emphasise that it is legitimate to resist occupation no matter who the occupier is. Equating anti-colonial resistance with the Germans who carried out the industrialised extermination of six million Jews is ahistorical and deeply offensive.

Israeli leaders however have tried desperately to equate Palestinian resistance with the Nazis even though the comparison is deeply flawed. This appears to be a key part of their campaign to justify and garner international support for the deadly onslaught on Gaza’s besieged population, as is Smotrich’s use of “Hamas-Isis”, which ignores the fact that the so-called “Islamic State” group denounced Hamas as “apostates”, according to Aaron Zelin, cited in a Washington Post article.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others have repeatedly called Hamas’s attack the worst against Jews since the Holocaust. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, last month pinned a yellow star to his chest, insisting that he would wear it “with pride” as long as the UN Security Council did not condemn the Hamas assault.

In the West, where support for Israel’s campaign in Gaza — described widely as genocide — is waning, advocates of the apartheid state have taken the comparison to the extreme. Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, right-wing commentator Douglas Murray, argued that Hamas is worse than the Nazis. “This is one occasion when saying that some people are worse than the Nazis is not hyperbole,” he claimed.

To the shock and dismay of many, Murray went on to argue that the average member of the Nazi SS and other mass murderers “were rarely proud of their average days’ work.” Continuing with his shocking revisionism of the Holocaust, he went on to say that, “Very few felt that shooting Jews in the back of the head all day and kicking their bodies into pits was where their own lives had meant to end up.” Indeed, many spent their evenings getting blind drunk to try to forget, added Murray. “Nazi commanders had to worry about staff ‘morale’. When the war ended, the Nazis tried to pretend that Treblinka and other death camps never existed.”

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Murray’s comparison was met with disbelief. The instinctive reaction of many to his words was revulsion and an outright rejection of his characterisations. “It’s pretty sad when a Jewish newspaper posts an article saying the Nazis weren’t that bad, simply in order to demonise the Palestinians,” said one person on X after the Jewish Chronicle posted Murray’s article on the social media site.

“I am not sure that allowing Douglas Murray to claim that the SS were actually decent chaps sickened by their daily work exterminating Jews is the best way for the Jewish Chronicle to emphasise the horror of Hamas’ October 7th attack,” said another.

“Holocaust Revisionism. You are a disgrace,” added another incredulous user shocked by the attempt to humanise the Nazis and basically apologise for the Third Reich.

“I’m confused. As a Jewish person the article’s content is blatant Holocaust revisionism but it’s been published in the Jewish Chronicle. Is the editor of the Jewish Chronicle a non-Jewish person who doesn’t recognise or understand Holocaust revisionism? Extremely offensive.”

Efforts to equate Hamas’ actions with those of the Nazis were also slammed by Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan. He rejected such rhetoric last week, saying that the two were fundamentally different.

The likes of Smotrich and Murray nevertheless have continued to make this ahistorical claim for no reason, it seems, other than to dehumanise Palestinians. Dehumanisation is the process of stripping a people of their humanity by portraying them as subhuman which has been used to pave the way to genocide. With the denial of core human traits — Palestinians are “animals” — the unthinkable becomes permissible.

In 1994, Tutsis in Rwanda were demonised as “cockroaches” by the Hutu government and allied media outlets. This made their mass slaughter — at least 800,000 people were killed — psychologically acceptable to their Hutu killers who saw their victims as vermin rather than people.

During the Holocaust, the Nazis constantly propagated images of Jews as rats, parasites and other vile creatures. Coining terms like “life unworthy of life,” Nazi propaganda excised Jewish humanity, enabling mass complicity in the industrialised murder of six million Jews and other “lesser” human beings. Similarly, ahead of the 1990s Balkan war, Yugoslav media engaged in nationalist othering of Bosnian Muslims to legitimise genocide and displacement.

In all such cases, the architects of genocide and ethnic cleansing denied the humanity of the reviled other. While specific triggers vary, the fundamental cognitive distortions enabling violence are consistent across time and space. Casting out a subgroup as illegitimate vermin, parasites or non-humans, cultivated through propaganda, creates the toxic hatred necessary to carry out extermination and mass murder.

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