Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Comparing Israel Policy To Nazism

BERLET: It seems that people who think of themselves as anti-racist and of some sort of progressive political bent have a hard time recognizing antisemitism, even if they recognize antisemitic statements they have a hard time seeing it in the same context of a broader global anti-racist struggle. Why do you think that is?
HIRSH: I think people are very good at recognizing some kinds of antisemitism. If it wears a Nazi uniform they understand it, if it’s right-wing they understand it, if it’s some sort of very simple worldview of racism and anti-racism. If it comes from the left and it comes from people who are anti-racist, then there’s often much more difficulty in recognizing and understanding what’s going on. There [are] many reasons for that.
One is that we think of antisemitism as being Nazism. Nazism was actually an unusual form of antisemitism; it was very clear, it allowed no exceptions; it allowed no escape for Jews. Most forms of antisemitism haven’t been like that., Christian antisemitism allowed people to convert to Christianity and therefore make themselves clean; also political antisemitism allowed Jews to put themselves on the right side of history. One of things we shouldn’t get too hung up on is the idea that antisemites are all like Adolph Hitler, because they’re not.

Professor Zimmerman demonstrates:

Rather, the heart of the matter is this: both cases, in 1938 and in 2012, involve heartlessness as to the fate of refugees. In both cases the refugees are stigmatized as "vermin" or "infiltrators." Both cases involve hairsplitting over the extent to which the lives of the refugees themselves are in danger. In October 1938, as now, the threat was not to the lives of German Jews but rather to their economic existence. It was only a few days later, after a member of one of the refugee families assassinated a German diplomat, that the resulting pogrom known as Kristallnacht took place, proving that there was indeed a danger to their lives.
One transgression leads to another. Germany and Poland could treat the unfortunate Jews who found themselves on the border in this manner because they had realized only a few months earlier, at the Evian Conference dealing with international aid to Jewish refugees from Germany, that other countries were indifferent to their fate. Hitler himself learned this lesson very well. Three months after the events of Zbaszyn he taunted the world: "If you care about the Jews so much, why are you not fighting over who will take them in?" Because he knew the answer, he pledged in that speech that the Jews would be destroyed in the next war.
 Can Israeli behavior toward refugees on the Egyptian border be accepted, given the memory of 1938 etched into our consciousness? In 2012, this the matriculation exam in history for Israelis. 

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