Friday, January 25, 2008

Immoral Equivalence

Peter Wertheim
Friday January 25, 2008

A spate of letters appeared this week in the Sydney Morning Herald comparing Israel's measures aimed at stopping rockets and mortars from being fired into Israel from Gaza to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto Although the Herald received numerous letters debunking the analogy, it published only one of them. This is the second time the Herald has lapsed into cheap moral relativism over the Nazi Holocaust. It was given a rap over the knuckles by the Press Council in 2003 for publishing a cartoon making a similar analogy. At the time, the Herald published an apology for its "lapse of judgement" and promised not to do it again. It has clearly reneged on that promise.

Let's be very clear about this. The Nazis were openly and explicitly committed to "the final solution to the Jewish question in Europe", that is murdering or forcibly expelling every last Jew from Europe. This was unashamedly a program for genocide, and it lay at the core of Naziideology and practice. It had no ulterior motive. It WAS the ulterior motive. This was not because of anything Jews had done, but purely because Jews were said (falsely) to be of a different race. Even though Jews had been persecuted in Europe for centuries, Jews did not launch rocket attacks against European towns and cities or blow themselves up in European shopping centres, trams and restaurants or teach their kindergarten-aged children to hate and kill their non-Jewish neighbours.

Nevertheless Jews were herded into ghettos (Warsaw was only one of many), packed on to cattle cars and transported by train to purpose-built death camps where they were systematically gassed to death and their bodies cremated. All this because of their (supposed) race. No other reason.

For the last 60 years Israel has been facing precisely the same threat that the Jews of Europe faced in the 1930's and 1940's. For Hamas, Hezbollah etc, most Jews are to be killed or forcibly expelled and the Middle East is to come under exclusively Arab and Islamic sovereignty, even though the recorded history of the region is not exclusively (or even predominantly)Arab and Islamic. On the question of the ultimate intentions of Israel's enemies, don't take my word for it. Let Hamas, Hezbollah etc speak for themselves. Read, for example, the Hamas Charter, if you can stomach it. An excellent English language translation prepared by Yale University can be accessed at Have a look for example at Article 7. No intellectually honest person can come away from a reading of that document without concluding that it is a Charter for racism, a program for genocide. Hamas is openly and explicitly committed to a 'final solution to the Jewish question' in the Middle East that is no different to Hitler's final solution to the Jewish question in Europe.

Indeed, just as the Nazis, at the expense of their own people and army, diverted valuable resources at the end of World War II in order to kill more Jews, so too Hamas diverts diesel from its own people to use as fuel to fire rockets at Israeli civilians. Hamas has even targeted power stations in Israel that continue to supply 60% of Gaza's electricity, and then accuses Israel of depriving Palestinians of electricity!

The difference today is that Jews are no longer defenceless in the face of these genocidal assaults. But when Israel fulfils its obligation to defend its citizens from rocket and mortar attacks and homicide bombings that are intentionally aimed at Israel's civilian population centres, people like the anti-Israel hate squad who regularly mar the letters pages of the Herald cry foul. It's easy for them - living half a world a way in the safety and comfort of Australia - to criticise Israel. But if they were Israeli civilians facing people who are maniacally committed to killing them and their children for racial and religious reasons they might have a different perspective. They never say what they would do. Remember, Israel has been committed to a two-State solution with the Palestinians since 1947 when the UN General Assembly first voted for a two-State solution. It was the Arab states and the Palestinian leadership, not the Jewish people, who openly declared war on the UN partition plan and illegally used force as a first resort to oppose it. It was thus the Arab states and the Palestinian leadership, not the Jewish people, who started the civil war in November 1947 which began the Palestinian exodus. It was the armies of 5 Arab states who invaded the country in 1948 and accelerated the Palestinian exodus. And it was Jordan and Egypt, not Israel, which gobbled up most of the territory allocated by the UN to the Palestinians.
So the 'Gaza is Warsaw' historical analogy falls flat on its face for 3 reasons. (1) It's Hamas and Hezbollah, not Israel, which share the genocidal program of the Nazis - and against the same target. Their attacks have provoked the restrictions Israel has applied to Gaza, not the other way round. Israel does not impose such restrictions for the fun of it. (2) The measures taken by Israel are in self-defence against repeated attacks against their civilians by an enemy openly bent on genocide. Nobody ever argued that the Nazis acted in self-defence against Jewish attacks, because there weren't any. (3) The measures taken by Israel may seem harsh, but it is obscene to compare them to what the Nazis did. Not unless you can point to an example of Palestinians being packed on to cattle cars and transported by train to purpose-built death camps where they are systematically gassed to death and their bodies cremated.

Peter Wertheim AM is a former President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and a current board member of the NSW Anti Discrimination Board.

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