When it comes to discussing the Palestinian conflict it is perhaps time to begin denying the holocaust. This is not to say that we must become holocaust deniers; refusing to accept the facts of Nazi genocide, but critics, rather, of the use of holocaust memory to justify the actions of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people. Running through almost every discussion on the occupation there is a sometimes latent sometimes explicit Reductio ad Hitlerum in defence of either Israel’s existence or Israel’s treatment of Palestine.

It invariably boils down to the perceived threat of extermination. It is patently not the case that Israel was founded as a safeguard against Jewish extermination. A Jewish state was already in the pipeline with the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and today well over half of the world’s Jews live outside Israel. It is undeniable that the murder of six million European Jews has left a profound trauma on the Jewish psyche, but it is also evident that the memory of this trauma has been fetishised and used as the answer-all, by many, to questions of Israel’s present occupation of the Palestinian territories.

What such rhetoric amounts to is the shifting of blame for the genocide from the Nazis to the Palestinians in order to legitimise the ideological objectives of Israel. As a psychological mechanism this blame shifting is useful in that it serves a number of functions for an expansionist state. Firstly it taps into the memory of the Shoah – which no Israelis born after 1945 remember – in order to elicit the passion and hatred required for vengeance. Secondly it dehumanises the victims of the occupation, because, even now, it is somehow unacceptable to think of the Nazis as human beings as opposed to monsters. Monsters are easier to harass, dispossess, humiliate, and kill than real innocent people.

Consequently, in much of the popular debate, everything that Palestinians or Arabs do in relation to Israel is directed towards Israel’s extermination – because extermination is positively loaded with every moment and agony of the holocaust. Note just how Haj Amin al-Husseini’s collaboration with the Nazis is used to defend the blame of the Palestinians. He knew in 1917 of the British plan to give away his people’s country to European Jews. No such generalisation is applied in light of Chaim Rumkowski’s collaboration or even of the documented cases of the Jews who fought with the Waffen-SS. The simple truth is that, with the backing of the United States and its own nuclear arsenal, Israel is not facing extermination, and so we must deny militant Israelis’ appeal to this language.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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