Anti-Israel groups have used dubious tactics over the years, but they stooped to unprecedented depravity recently when someone Photoshopped a photo of emaciated Holocaust survivors.
A Facebook page with 91,000 followers (at press time) posted a picture of survivors, presumably taken at the time of a camp liberation, manipulated to appear to be holding signs with terms like “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza,” “Israel Assassins” and “Stop US aid to Israel.” At the bottom, a caption reads, “Whatever happened to ‘Never again?’” The image received hundreds of likes and many shares, including from organizations that have until now posed as legitimate voices for Palestinians.
The picture is instantly offensive for obvious reasons. But it is additionally repugnant on a number of grounds, beyond the explicit desecration of historical memory.
Anyone who can equate the Israeli-Arab conflict with the Holocaust – and, further, depict the Jews of Israel as the instigators and perpetrators – holds a view of contemporary and historical events so removed from fact that their opinions should be discarded from the discourse. The problem is, they’re not.
In fact, the meme of Israel perpetrating a holocaust against Palestinians is rampant. On social media, in the comments sections of mainstream media, in conversations with moderately informed neighbors and friends, the concept is almost inevitable.
You may have heard of Godwin’s Law, the theory that, the longer a political discussion (on any topic) continues, the greater the likelihood someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazis. A parallel – call it Godwin’s Corollary – could almost be written in stone: Whenever two or more people engage in discussion of Israel’s actions, someone will inevitably accuse the Jewish state of having learned from the masters, or of doing unto others what was done unto them in Europe.
The concept is appalling and, yet, it seems to be irresistible. It has been said that Jews are like everyone else only more so. Throughout the history of Jews as scapegoats, others (as well as some Jews in the past and today) project onto the Jewish people the sins of humanity and then proceed toward the inevitable end that scapegoating demands. How perfect for our cynical time that we should have a modern fable that so succinctly and conveniently proves our assumption that even the victims of the most venal atrocities can – and would – in a generation or two turn around and perpetrate the same on others.
This ahistoric fable implies that, because Jews are Nazis, they deserved the Holocaust and whatever other retribution is seen fit to dispense. And, if Israel is the “reward” for the Holocaust, then it can be taken away as appropriate punishment, as well. That the “facts” do not in any way approach reality is irrelevant. It is a fable intended to teach a moral lesson, and truthiness is beside the point.
There is another fault almost as grievous. Anti-Israel groups often employ the Jewish historical experience against the Jewish state – routinely employing Holocaust and Nazi imagery, along with other culturally appropriated concepts like apartheid. To a fair observer, these thefts of the experiences of others would be an admission that the bare facts of the Palestinian experience are not enough to convince and so they must be dressed up in masquerades of the historical traumas of others. But fair observers are not driving this discussion. The more ghastly the accusations that can be thrown at Israel, the more voraciously they are adopted by the haters.
At the very same time, these voices do everything in their power to negate the Jewish historical experience as a justification for Jewish self-determination and Zionism. Any reference to the Holocaust that might aid Israel’s case is hollered down as exploitative, as bringing a knife to a fist fight, as too weighty an historical weapon to introduce to the contemporary context. The Holocaust, in today’s environment, can be used against the Jewish people, but to raise it in a way that could justify Jewish strength or self-defence is ruled out of bounds.