But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again used the solemn day to falsely link
the Holocaust with Iran and threaten war against a nation that has not initiated one since the 1700s.
"Anti-Semitism has not disappeared and... neither has the desire to destroy a considerable part of the Jewish people and the State of Israel," Netanyahu, who was narrowly reelected
earlier this week, said. "Iran... today... is the leader of Holocaust-denial while preparing for what they deem to be another Holocaust-- the destruction of the state of the Jews."
Netanyahu then spoke of Iran's "relentless and systematic" efforts to develop nuclear weapons, willfully ignoring the assessments of his own defense minister
and military chief of staff
, as well as the outgoing American defense secretary
, all of whom agree that Iran is not
trying to build nukes.
"We do not make light of these threats and we will prevent them," Netanyahu said, clearly referring to Iran. "The root of the issue today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is not what happened, but how we can prevent it from happening again and this depends on the ability and the determination of the state of the Jews to defend itself against those who would destroy it."
This isn't the first time Netanyahu has spuriously linked Iran to the Holocaust. "Iran is Germany, and it's 1938," he declared
back in 2006. If that had been the case, it would now be 1945, and Iran's Jews would be ashes and bleached bones. Instead, 25,000 of them live peacefully
in the Islamic Republic. Iran's Jewish community is the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel. There is a Jewish member of the Iranian parliament (who condemns
Israeli crimes against Gaza), a Jewish newspaper and 11 synagogues
in Tehran alone. There are kosher restaurants and Hebrew schools. Jewish burial rites and other laws are recognized by the nation's Islamic courts. There are Jews in the military. Israeli officials and some Jewish leaders in the United States have long urged Iran's Jews to emigrate, but few have done so
, despite being free to leave. The ones who have left have done so overwhelmingly for financial, not religious, reasons. Life is far from perfect for Jews-- or anyone-- living under a totalitarian regime run by Islamic fundamentalists, but it's far from pre-Holocaust Germany.
But what about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vow to "wipe Israel off the map," you ask? What about it? The simple truth is that he never uttered those words, a fact publicly acknowledged
by Israel's deputy prime minister.
Since Netanyahu likes to link Nazi Germany and Iran, I feel obligated in the name of truth to argue that for its entire modern existence, Israel's behavior has been far closer to that of the Nazis than has Iran's. I know this is a highly controversial, even inflammatory, assertion, but I am prepared to defend it with irrefutable facts.
The modern Israeli state was founded and secured largely upon terrorism and ethnic cleansing
, as was Nazi Germany. The territory that is now Israel was less than 10 percent Jewish
from ancient times until well into the 20th century. In order to create their state, Zionist Jews employed a variety of tactics, both legal and otherwise. After the Ottoman empire fell at the end of World War I, the British wrested control of Palestine and ruled it for 30 years. In order to drive out the British-- as well as the indigenous Arabs who stood in the way of the Jewish state they desired, Zionist militants carried out a campaign of terror bombings and assassinations
. They even accidentally killed hundreds of Jews while blowing up a ship
full of Holocaust refugees. These were not fringe groups that carried out these attacks, they were led by future prime ministers
who are today hailed as heroes by Israelis who proudly celebrate
some of their deadliest attacks.
As Jews celebrated the independence of their new state in May 1948, one of the great ethnic cleansing campaigns of the postwar period was already well underway as more than 700,000
Palestinian Arabs were forced from their homeland, never to return. This was well-planned
, and it was sometimes accomplished by massacres
that for sheer barbarism rivaled those of Hitler's SS. Yes, Arabs also committed atrocities against Jews, but they did so in the context of defending their homes and families against Zionist usurpation and ethnic cleansing.
Today, Israel continues to act much more like Nazi Germany than Iran does. There is illegal occupation in the face of international condemnation
. The majority of Israelis support apartheid
policies and actions that prominent international
observers as well as survivors
of South African apartheid say are worse than those which oppressed Nelson Mandela and his countrymen. There is ongoing ethnic cleansing
and colonization as Zionist settlers seek their own lebensraum
in the occupied West Bank. There are brutal blitzkriegs
against vastly overpowered neighbors resulting in large numbers of innocent deaths. There is widespread racism
and religious leaders who vilify
Arabs as something less than human. There is the crushing physical and economic oppression
and daily humiliation
that are facts of life for millions of occupied Palestinian men, women and children.
On this, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is only fitting that we listen to the voices of some Holocaust survivors who say that Israel is acting very much like those Nazis who tried to exterminate them.
Suzanne Weiss, who was a little girl when her parents were killed as the Nazis occupied France, said
"The Palestinians are the victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. The Israeli government's actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family's experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There's no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off and deprived of human rights and human dignity."
Hedy Epstein, whose parents were killed in a Nazi death camp, said
"When I stood next to that terrible 25-foot-high cement wall that Israel has built, separating Palestinian from Palestinian, I thought, My God, is this what Jews are doing, the Jews that were forced behind walls, they are building a wall, and putting Palestinians behind that wall, and in the process destroying Palestinian buildings, homes, wells, but never hope."
Epstein decried American Jews "for whom Israel is always the victim, and the Palestinians are always the terrorists. They don't really understand, they don't really ask questions, and they don't really know what is truly going on."
Dr. Hajo Meyer, who survived 10 months in the Auschwitz
concentration camp, said
"The Israelis tried to dehumanize the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanize me. Nobody should dehumanize any other and those who try to dehumanize another are not human."
Incredibly, Dr. Meyer has been called a "disgrace," a "self-hating Jew" and even an "anti-Semite" by Zionist apologists, a trick
used by many Israelis and their backers to deflect legitimate criticism of real crimes. For surely the irony of a people who were victims of one of the worst ethnic cleansings in history turning around and subjecting a completely innocent people to the same sort of repression has not been lost on Israel's leaders. But it is far easier to accuse frail, old Jews like Dr. Meyer of "abusing his position as a Holocaust survivor."
It is Benjamin Netanyahu who is abusing the memory of the Holocaust and its victims by speciously linking Iran to the slaughter of six million Jews in order to further a dubious agenda of regional hegemony. Just like Hitler played on German fears and prejudices, so Netanyahu does with his people. If we must compare one of the two leaders or nations to Hitler and the Third Reich, it is not Ahmadinejad and Iran, it is Netanyahu and Israel. Instead of relentlessly parroting "never again," Zionists would do well to recognize that their Jewish state was established and is maintained by some of the very same policies and actions that caused so much death and suffering for their own people.
Brett Wilkins, whose maternal family is Jewish, is the editor of Moral Low Ground.