What if citing Hitler to Jewish people regarding Israel and its behaviour towards Palestine was actually ‘ok’?
Is it ever ok to cite Hitler to a Jewish person? Can it ever be seen as anything other than anti-semitic?
One of the most common quotes being highlighted as anti-semitic in the debate surrounding the Labour Party is one that goes something like this photo of Shah Hussain’s tweet (Burnley Labour Cllr):
Ken Livingstone also made a verbal comment similar to that written one. Both men have been suspended from the party along with others numbering anything from 16 upwards.
Keith Vaz, Labour chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee who will conduct an investigation on the National Executive Committee on top of another ongoing enquiry, was aksed specifically about the tweet by Shah Hussain on the Daily Politics Show Tuesday. He was asked;
“You would denounce the tweet made by Shah Hussain even if it was made in 2014 at the height of the gaza crisis?”
Keith Vaz replied;
“Absolutely, there is no place for anti-semitism or racism within the Labour Party…”
Therein lies the the crux of the debate. Are these comments anti-semitic? Are these comments anti-Jew?
Some of the comments under scrutiny like Shah Hussain’s tweet do not even mention ‘Jews‘ as such. He states “you and your country” in the tweet. When people refer to Saudi Arabia as a terrorist state or human rights violator it is an attack on the regime, not the pepople, it’s the same with Russia or Syria or any number of other countries. Of course if you have individuals who side with that regime then its understandable that they too will come into heavy criticism. Often in countries like Saudi Arabia people who support the regime will often be called extremists, none of this is any different to Israel, including calling people there who support the regime ‘Zionists’, which many believe is a nationalist political ideology. The problem is, you apparently just can’t say it. Especially if you cite Hitler in the same sentence but as American Jewish Scholar Norman G. Finkelstein said in a recent interview on the subject;
What about when people use Nazi analogies to criticise the policies of the State of Israel? Isn’t that also a political abuse of the Nazi holocaust?
“It’s not a simple question. First, if you’re Jewish, the instinctive analogy to reach for, when it comes to hate or hunger, war or genocide, is the Nazi holocaust, because we see it as the ultimate horror”
What about when people who aren’t Jewish invoke the analogy?
“Once the Nazi holocaust became the cultural referent, then, if you wanted to touch a nerve regarding Palestinian suffering, you had to make the analogy with the Nazis, because that was the only thing that resonated for Jews. If you compared the Palestinians to Native Americans, nobody would give a darn..”
This is exactly why people cite Hitler. It’s not because they want to offend Jewish people even if it inadvertently does, it’s because they want to hit home the point. If someone believes that Israeli foreign policy is one of persecution and causing suffering to innocent people then what better way to highlight the issue than cite the very person that caused the Jewish people so much suffering. It’s like holding up a mirror to an enemy and saying “do you like what you see” (in reference to a personal acceptance of persecution).
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact that many blogs and groups around the world, all Jewish, have either defended the comments or stated that they are not offended by the comments. As evidenced by this letter to the Guardian from many members of the Jewish community within Labour.
Let alone the fact that the Israeli leader, Netanyahu himself in a speech accepted that Hitler had at one point toyed with the idea of sending Jews away from Europe into Israel.
This whole debate is a nonsense. We need to get over this idea that referring to Hitler is wrong, referring to Hitler towards a Jewish person is abhorrent and criticising Israel is treading a thin line.
There have been examples recently in America of people asking black communities why they are voting for Trump, a (alleged) racist and xenophobic? Citing their own communities historic background and their struggle against entrenched racism…asking, “why would you vote for a racist?” The reference is to the days of black struggle and the times they were persecuted for the colour of their skin. Yet no one bats an eyelid. Why is that not racism? Citing the worst times of black history to make a point about a current day event? Yet cite the worst times of Jewish history to a Jewish person and it seems you had better be ready to be taken down a peg or two.
It’s not just Labour MP’s either, even the Labour membership is said to be under scrutiny. Certainly the PLP will be considering going down that route. No one it seems is safe.
On one last point. What If no one said anything. What if no one dared utter their grievances to the Jewish people regarding Israel? It brings to mind a quote;
As some have said before. Maybe if the German people had better stood up to Hitler…
…and maybe if the Israeli people had better stood up to Netanyahu…
I shall await my suspension in a dark room somewhere.