My Daily Beast column: “Tel Aviv is Not Vilna.”

It’s that time again: I have a column up at Open Zion on The Daily Beast! This week I rage at the Israeli government for its abuse of Holocaust imagery for geopolitical ends. Good times!

Following is the top of the piece – to read the rest, please click here, and, you know: Please do click! If you don’t help me get page views, the terrorists win! Or something.

On the Eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s Prime Minister chose – as so many have done before him – to compare a current geopolitical circumstance to the dark days of Nazi Germany.

“People who make light of the Iranian threat have learned nothing from the Holocaust,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said, adding that during a recent trip around the country, “for a moment I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna, Haifa with Białystock, Degania, Nahalal, Be’er Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, and Odessa.”

There’s nothing new here, of course. Nasser, Arafat, Ahmadinejad – they’re all Hitler. Palestinian nationalism is Nazism. The 1967 borders are Auschwitz Borders. On and on Israel’s leaders go, misusing and abusing the memories of the six million, even as they claim to be fighting in their memory.

The words “false equivalency” come up a lot in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but arguably the worst case of it is perpetrated by successive Israeli governments when they compare the Jews in the Jewish State to the Jews in mid-century Europe.

Can there be any equivalency more false than that drawn between a starved, terrorized population without access to hope or help – and the Middle East’s most successful country, its borders guarded by the Middle East’s most powerful army, its people fed, clothed and housed in the Middle East’s most successful economy? In what way, exactly, is a nation bristling with armaments like people gunned down by the Einsatzgruppen? How, precisely, are Israel’s internationally recognized borders even remotely like the gates reading “Arbeit Macht Frei”?

These are ahistorical and frankly grotesque comparisons. The damage they cause cuts deep, and in many directions.

To read the rest (ahem), please click here.




    The topics about which I write with regard to Israel/Palestine are fraught, and people’s opinions about them powerfully held. That’s fine — I’m right there with you.

    But as I say in about 17 different places on this blog (such as on my About Commenting page), I have very clear expectations of commenters: Comments that are rude, insulting, hostile, and/or hateful, will be deleted, and if I feel it’s warranted, the commenter will be banned.

    Moreover: As soon as I detect a whiff of any of the above – I delete without reading another word. Which is to say: People who invest time and energy in ugly screeds should know that their work is all for naught.

    Disagree if you want to, be passionate! But be polite, or go home.

    My house, my rules.

  2. lasslisa

     /  April 20, 2012

    Thank you. I intended to attend a local Holocaust Remembrance Day service and then I saw that the whole event seemed to center around a planned speech about Israel. I would love to believe there would be a nuanced talk that addressed the tumultuous relationship that so many liberal American Jews have with Israel… but with the speaker being who it was, no way. So I didn’t go. I couldn’t stand the thought of someone using all that horror and grief to beat the drum for yet more unconditional political support.

  3. Eliezer

     /  April 22, 2012

    I agree completely that the holocaust is over-invoked when addressing the threats facing Israel today. Not because the threats are not real or serious, or even existential, but because the threats are new and different from what had been 60 years ago. In the 1930’s, European Jewry didn’t realize that they were confronting a new threat, a new kind of anti-Semitism. So they reacted the same way they had always done in the past: keep your head down and it will eventually blow over. Their essential, and fatal, mistake was that they saw today’s threats in yesterday’s terms. That is the most relevant lesson of the holocaust for us today: don’t see today’s threats in yesterday’s terms. Because if you misunderstand the problem, your solution will be ineffective. The nature of the Iranian threat is completely different from what European Jewry faced in 1930. Different era, different reasons, different capabilities… different threat. Needs a different solution, too. The danger of invoking the holocaust is that it stuns people into thinking only in terms of holocaust-appropriate responses – military might and nothing else – whereas a more nuanced and modern response is needed today. Thanks for the excellent article.

  4. So I finally visited Israel! Now I feel I have a smidgeon more insight to be able to get even more out of your posts. This comparison is downright scary….if these views continue to snowball unchecked…