I am an Israeli citizen. I am an American citizen. I am also completing a Master's degree in Holocaust studies and a resident of Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements in the West Bank in Israel. Now that I've laid all my cards out on the table, I am going to rail against a phenomenon that has developed over the past few years: comparing Israelis to Nazis. The comparison is insulting and blatantly, historically inaccurate.
Let's begin with the facts. Nazi Germany was a murderous totalitarian dictatorship intent on taking over Europe and cleansing their conquered territories. Driven by the economic depression in their country, Hitler and the Nazi party created a hierarchy based on Social Darwinism, eugenics, and anti-Semitic ideology.
The Israeli Knesset, by contrast, is democratically elected, comprised of many parties of various viewpoints, and even MKs who call for the destruction of the very government they represent. Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East, with equal rights for women, homosexuals and Israeli Arabs.
After invading Poland in September 1939, Germany set out in June 1941, to invade the Soviet Union in order to fight a sweeping ideological war against Communism. Under this guise, they began rounding up defenseless Jews and shooting them (they began with men, but after a few weeks, also included women and children). By 1942, the Nazi government had erected various death camps to enact the "Final Solution:" the total extermination of the Jewish people throughout Europe, and eventually, the entire world.
The Israeli response in Gaza is in no way reminiscent of the systematic, cold-blooded murder perpetrated by the Nazis.
Fact: in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, handing it over to the Palestinians. Instead of using the beautiful infrastructure that existed, the homes and greenhouses, to build their own communities, the Palestinian leadership burned and destroyed anything and everything that the Israelis left.
Fact: Hamas has been baiting Israel by shooting rockets into Israel and, one month ago, by kidnapping three innocent boys on their way home from school for the weekend.
Fact: since the beginning of the ground invasion of Gaza, the IDF has uncovered dozens of tunnels dug from Gaza into Israel whose purpose is to enable terrorists to smuggle their way into Israel to murder innocent Israelis.
Have there been civilian casualties in Gaza since the operation began? Yes. Is it unfortunate? Yes. But Israel has extended generosity in the form of temporary ceasefires, blood donation and medical services to Gaza civilians (not to mention the warnings they give to civilians to evacuate buildings that house weapons before destroying those buildings). Are any of Israel's actions in the slightest way similar to that of Nazis during World War II? Absolutely, unequivocally, no.
I stand firmly behind Israel’s actions from a political and moral stance, and, though it pains me, I understand that there are those throughout the world who disagree with my point of view. However, as a student of the history of the Holocaust, as a thinking individual, and, most of all, as a Jew, I can no longer sit silently while comparisons are drawn between Israelis and Nazis, and while uniquely Holocaust references are thrown at Israel. Comparing Israelis, Jews, to the destructive Nazi regime whose very goal was to eliminate us is at best ignorant, and at worst, horrifying and repugnant. Nazi Germany was one of the most oppressive, evil and far-reaching regimes in history. Yehuda Bauer, academic adviser to Yad Vashem, asserts that one aspect that differentiates the Holocaust from all other genocides was that all Jews, not just German Jews or European Jews, but worldwide Jewry, was targeted for extermination. I am saddened that today, in a time that humankind has the opportunity for exposure, for education and enlightenment, there exists such a misunderstanding of history and truth.
And just to prove my point even further: what of the world’s blind and deaf acceptance of the anti-Semitic riots and violence throughout Europe—is that not more redolent of World War II? Perhaps the Western world has not learned as much as they claim, and that is the most frightening of all.
Lani Lederer Berman lives in Alon Shvut, Israel.